Trump Uses Defense Production Act to Keep Meatpackers Open

On Tuesday, President Trump signed an executive order keeping meatpacking plants open during the COVID-19 pandemic. The President used the Defense Production Act to order companies to stay open as critical infrastructure, as meatpacking plants over the past couple of weeks closed with spikes in coronavirus cases among employees.

According to Bloomberg News, the plan allows the federal government to supply additional personal protective equipment to meat processing facilities. The supply chain slowdown presents dire factors for farmers, with poultry and pork producers left with no alternative other than euthanizing animals. The order will affect processing plants for beef, chicken, eggs and pork, including the Tyson packing plant outside of the Tri-Cities.

Republican U.S. Senators from Iowa, Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, this week, urged the administration to invoke the Defense Production Act. The Senators asked for assistance for processing plants, assistance for euthanizing animals, indemnity payments for depopulation costs and mental health assistance for all affected.

“With today’s decision to keep meat-processing plants running, President Trump is showing once again that he understands the critical importance of American agriculture,” said House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Mike Conaway. “I thank the President for seeking solutions that not only protect the health and safety of the hardworking men and women in these essential positions, but lessen the hardship for our farmers, ranchers, and consumers. During this incredibly difficult time, American agriculture has gone above and beyond to keep our nation fed and clothed, and I could not be more grateful to these American heroes.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented crisis for American farmers,” said American Farm Bureau Federation president Zippy Duvall. “Farmers and ranchers face the heartbreaking decision to euthanize animals because of plant closures. It’s important for our elected leaders at all levels to understand the critical nature of this crisis.

“We don’t yet know the details of the President’s actions to address meat packing plant closures but are hopeful it will protect the health and safety of workers while keeping farmers and ranchers in the business of providing food for families across America.”

“While there are currently no widespread shortages of beef, we are seeing supply chain disruptions because of plant closures and reductions in the processing speed at many, if not most, beef processing plants in the United States. We thank President Trump for his recognition of the problem and the action he has taken today to begin correcting it,” said National Cattlemen Beef Association CEO Colin Woodall. “American consumers rely on a safe, steady supply of food, and President Trump understands the importance of keeping cattle and beef moving to ensure agriculture continues to operate at a time when the nation needs it most.”

“By keeping meat and poultry producers operating, the President’s Executive Order will help avert hardship for agricultural producers and keep safe, affordable food on the tables of American families,” said North American Meat Institute President and CEO Julie Anna Potts. “The safety of the heroic men and women working in the meat and poultry industry is the first priority.  And as it is assured, facilities should be allowed to re-open. We are grateful to the President for acting to protect our nation’s food supply chain.”

“The industry has and will continue to implement the Centers for Disease Control and Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidance released Sunday,” Potts continued. “These measures include: testing, temperature checks, face coverings, social distancing of employees where possible and much more. To support employees many Meat Institute members are raising pay, offering bonuses, providing paid sick leave and increasing health benefits.”

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