Trump Plans To Beef Up Meat Production After Coronavirus Hits Plants

Marco Green
April 30, 2020

Trump did not immediately provide details about the order, but a source familiar with the plans told NPR that he will invoke the Defense Production Act to ensure beef, pork, poultry and egg plants need running. Across the animal protein industry, closures can have severe, perhaps disastrous, repercussions up and down the supply chain.

"We appreciate the administration's efforts to help the food supply chain and we remain committed to protecting the safety of our team members as we continue our efforts to keep feeding American families". Workers have tested positive in at least 80 plants in 26 states, and there have been 28 closures of at least a day.

Tuesday, he used the Defense Production Act to order meat and poultry processing plants to stay open, despite the coronavirus pandemic.

It may take longer to restock shelves due to supply chain disruptions, but The Counter claimed there were "many millions" of pounds of meat in cold storage and the frozen stockpile would make up for any problems with short term processing.

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Chris Lu, who served as deputy secretary of labor during the Barack Obama administration, said new safety standards should be the priority, and "we shouldn't have to sacrifice America's workers in order to protect our food supply".

Like lambs to the slaughter?

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, speaking to reporters on a teleconference on Tuesday that mainly centred on immigrants working in the healthcare sector, was asked about Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell's pushing for business liability protections as they reopen their operations.

On top of the fact that production lines necessitate that workers stand very close together, most are low-income, hourly workers.

The president of the Retail, Wholesale, Department Store Union (RWDSU) Mid-South Council, which represents workers at the Tyson plant in Shelbyville, anxious the order would discourage plants from closing to do a deep cleaning.

The President signed the order days after Tyson published a letter in newspapers across the country warning "the food supply chain is breaking". "As a result, there will be limited supply of our products available in grocery stores until we are able to reopen our facilities that are now closed". Some farmers said it was too late because pigs had been euthanised already instead of the pork going to market.

Tyson plants in Columbus Junction and Waterloo have seen significant outbreaks of the virus this spring, forcing both to temporarily close. Other facilities, including a Smithfield Foods pork plant in South Dakota, and a JBS beef plant in Wisconsin, have also announced a temporary shutdown.

What do the unions say?

Now, more than 6,500 meat industry workers have been infected or exposed to the coronavirus, and at least 20 have died, according to the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.

Hadley said 110 workers at the plant of more than a 1000, called in sick on Tuesday.

"With the meatpacking and the transportation, we have had some difficulty where they're having a liability where it's really unfair to them", Trump said.

Commenting on this development, the USA secretary of agriculture, Sonny Perdue, said: "I thank President Trump for signing this executive order and recognizing the importance of keeping our food supply chain safe, secure, and plentiful".

Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO union, said: "Using executive power to force people back on the job without proper protections is wrong and unsafe".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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