President Trump orders meatpacking plants to remain open amid coronavirus
On Tuesday, President Trump signed an executive order to ensure all meat processing plants remain open amid the coronavirus pandemic. The order invoked the Defense Production Act (DPA) and deemed the processing plants as critical infrastructure.
According to AP News, 20 meatpacking plants have temporarily closed due to pressure from local governments and employees, two among them being “the nation’s largest.”
Politico reports: “The 15 largest pork-packing plants account for 60% of all pork processed in the U.S., and the country has already seen a 25% reduction in pork slaughter capacity, according to UFCW.”
“Such closures threaten the continued functioning of the national meat and poultry supply chain, undermining critical infrastructure during the national emergency,” states Tuesday’s order.
The plant closures, along with country-wide restaurant closures, have also caused a food waste issue. John Tyson, CEO of Tyson Foods, said, “In addition to meat shortages, this is a serious food waste issue. Farmers across the nation simply will not have anywhere to sell their livestock to be processed, when they could have fed the nation.
“The food supply chain is breaking,” he said.
Though the order was signed to combat the obvious food shortage the country is facing, many are critical of the order. Health officials have claimed that workers in these meatpacking plants are at high-risk for catching the coronavirus, as the workers cannot practice safe social distancing guidelines. Many argue that Trump needs to prioritize workers’ lives over meat distribution; however, the problem is not as clear-cut as critics make it seem. With a food shortage, the country faces other dire health concerns.
Fox News reports that the federal government will be supplying extra personal protective equipment (PPE) to plant employees to help mitigate risk.
AP News also reports that “The administration is working with companies to help them secure protective equipment … and ramp up testing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration have issued extensive guidelines on steps companies and workers should take.”
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