President Donald Trump recently signed an executive order requiring meat and poultry processing plants to remain in operation in order to address the supply needs during the coronavirus pandemic. Using the Defense Production Act, the order classifies processing operations as ‘critical infrastructure’ necessary for ensuring the protection of America’s food supply.
“Our nation’s meat and poultry processing facilities play an integral role in the continuity of our food supply chain,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “Maintaining the health and safety of these heroic employees in order to ensure that these critical facilities can continue operating is paramount.”
Several packing companies have recently been closing some of their facilities as a result of employees contracting COVID-19. Other processing facilities have also slowed down in the wake of implementing new safety protocols. Meat processing capacity has declined by 20 percent as a result. USDA has indicated it will continue to work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, as well as state and local officials to help ensure the safety of employees working in meat and poultry processing plants.
“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,” North American Meat Institute President and CEO Julie Anna Potts said in a press release. “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 meat and poultry industries will continue to implement the federal guidelines for safety, including the use of testing, temperature checks, face coverings, and the social distancing of employees when possible. The order also provides additional liability protections for processing plants.