by WorldTribune Staff, May 1, 2020
President Donald Trump this week signed an executive order declaring America’s meat processing facilities are “critical infrastructure.”
The president “is using the Defense Production Act to ensure that Americans have a reliable supply of beef, pork, and poultry during the global coronavirus pandemic,” the White House said in an April 30 press release.
“Food supply is critical infrastructure, essential to the health and safety of every American citizen. Recent actions in some states have led to the complete closure of large processing facilities, which can quickly affect meat availability in all parts of the country,” the White House said.
The chairman of Tyson Foods had warned that the nation’s food supply was “breaking” as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
In a full-page ad published in The New York Times, The Washington Post and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on April 27, board chairman John Tyson wrote that “the food supply chain is breaking,” saying farmers will be left without anywhere to sell livestock and “millions of animals — chickens, pigs and cattle — will be depopulated because of the closure of our processing facilities.”
“There will be limited supply of our products available in grocery stores until we are able to reopen our facilities that are currently closed,” Tyson added.
Tyson had closed facilities in Logansport, Indiana, and Waterloo, Iowa. Smithfield closed a facility in Sioux Falls, South Dakota as well as a JBS facility in Worthington, Minnesota. The Waterloo, Worthington and Sioux Falls facilities comprise about 15 percent of pork production in the U.S.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a Republican, said earlier this week that the Smithfield Foods meat plant in her state could reopen “in a matter of days.”
The White House said that “closure of a single plant can eliminate more than 80 percent of the supply of a particular meat — say, ground beef — for an entire grocery store chain. All told, the failure to keep facilities open could force millions of pounds of meat to disappear from the market, potentially causing long-term disruptions to America’s supply chain.”
Trump wrote in his executive order: “Given the high volume of meat and poultry processed by many facilities, any unnecessary closures can quickly have a large effect on the food supply chain.”
The White House said that, with Trump’s executive order, the Department of Agriculture “can ensure U.S. meat and poultry processors continue to operate uninterrupted to the maximum extent possible. To protect worker safety, processors will continue to follow the latest guidance from the CDC and the Occupational Safety & Health Administration.”
White House Director of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Peter Navarro said: “The United States of America is undergoing the fastest industrial mobilization since World War II” and the president’s use of “the Defense Production Act is a key part of that mobilization.”