After multiple meat-processing plants closed in recent weeks due to COVID-19, President Trump is expected to issue an executive order requiring them to remain open.
Trump will use the Defense Production Act to mandate that meat-processing plants remain open, according to reporting on Tuesday from Bloomberg. The Defense Production Act gives the federal government increased authority to control industrial production during times of crisis.
Trump’s executive order will designate meat-processing plants as critical infrastructure during the pandemic.
The move comes after 22 meat processing plants have shuttered in the past two months due to outbreaks of Coronavirus among workers. Tyson Foods was reportedly considering a plan to keep only 20% of their facilities open.
These meat-processing plant closures have also left some farmers in a bind as they have nowhere to send their animals. Some farmers have even been forced to use population control measures to get rid of unwanted animals.
The executive order will also minimize the liability that companies face if workers contract COVID-19 when they are required to come into work.
For weeks now, the meat-processing industry has been issuing warnings that the nation’s food supply is at risk as a result of Coronavirus.
Earlier this month, as Smithfield Foods, Inc. closed their Sioux Falls, South Dakota plant, the company warned that “the closure of this facility, combined with a growing list of other protein plants that have shuttered across our industry, is pushing our country perilously close to the edge in terms of our meat supply.”
In an April 26 blog post, John Tyson of Tyson Foods wrote:
Now, Tyson Foods is facing a new set of challenges. In small communities around the country where we employ over 100,000 hard-working men and women, we’re being forced to shutter our doors. This means one thing – the food supply chain is vulnerable. As pork, beef and chicken plants are being forced to close, even for short periods of time, millions of pounds of meat will disappear from the supply chain. As a result, there will be limited supply of our products available in grocery stores until we are able to reopen our facilities that are currently closed.