President Trump’s Executive Order on Meat and Poultry Processors
On April 28th, President Trump signed an executive order and enforced the Defense Production Act to allow meat and poultry processing facilities to remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The executive order comes at a time when numerous meat and poultry plants have closed either temporarily or indefinitely, and the threat of supply chain shortages are on the rise. “The food supply chain is breaking,” stated John Tyson, the chairman of the board of Tyson Foods, in an ad published in The New York Times and The Washington Post. Trump declared meat and poultry processing plants as critical infrastructure as a way to prevent shortages of meat and poultry during the national emergency.
“I thank President Trump for signing this executive order and recognizing the importance of keeping our food supply chain safe, secure, and plentiful. Our nation’s meat and poultry processing facilities play an integral role in the continuity of our food supply chain,” Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a press release.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new guidelines for meat and poultry processing facility workers to assure their safety during COVID-19. The guidelines include working directly with appropriate state and local public health officials and occupational safety and health professionals, incorporating relevant aspects of CDC guidance, including but not limited to this document and the CDC’s Critical Infrastructure Guidance, and incorporating guidance from other authoritative sources or regulatory bodies as needed.
According to The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), a private-sector union representing meatpacking and food processing workers, 22 processing plants have shut down, resulting in over 35,000 workers impacted. UFCW also confirmed 20 meatpacking worker deaths due to COVID-19. Additionally, 5,000 meatpacking workers and 1,500 food processing workers have either tested positive for COVID-19, missed work due to self-quarantine, are awaiting test results, or have been hospitalized, and/or are symptomatic. “All of our country’s elected leaders – federal and state – must work together to ensure that we keep these essential workers safe and our country’s food supply secure,” said Marc Perrone, UFCW International President.
Secretary Perdue reinforced the importance of safety in these facilities, stating that, “Maintaining the health and safety of these heroic employees in order to ensure that these critical facilities can continue operating is paramount. I also want to thank the companies who are doing their best to keep their workforce safe as well as keeping our food supply sustained. USDA will continue to work with its partners across the federal government to ensure employee safety to maintain this essential industry.”