Smithfield farmland

Farmers and politicians are split over whether America's largest pork processor should buy another big operation.

Smithfield Foods wants to buy the pork unit of Farmland Industries, which is in bankruptcy court protection. Virginia-based Smithfield also owns major hog companies in North Carolina.

Critics say Smithfield already controls more than a quarter of the pork market, and buying more will give the company too much control. Supporters say the deal would be good for hog farmers because the pork unit would join a healthy company.

Under the agreement, Smithfield would keep open Farmland's three slaughter plants and six processing plants. It also would maintain contracts with Farmland hog producers. The proposal is subject to bankruptcy court and regulatory approvals.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)