USA – U.S President Donald Trump has invoked the Defense Production Act compelling meat processing plants in the United States to remain operational amid the Coronavirus pandemic.
The move comes at a time when meat processor in the country including Tyson Foods, JBS, Smithfield Foods and Cargill among other meat companies have been shutting down activities due to increased Covid-19 cases linked to maintaining operations at the facilities.
Tyson Foods had previously unveiled that it was considering only keeping 20% of its facilities open sending a warning that millions of pounds of meat will disappear from the supply chain leading to product shortages in grocery stores across the country.
By signing the order, Trump declared meat plants part of critical infrastructure in the US and is expected to relieve pressure to meat packers and farmers who have struggled with food supply upheavals following closure of plants.
As part of the intervention, the administration said that it is also working with the Department of Labor on issuing guidance about which employees who work at these meat processing facilities should remain home, including workers who are part of populations most vulnerable to the Coronavirus, reports CNN.
Movement restriction in certain US states has been cited to cause an upsurge in demand for meat and meat products in the country even as processors struggle to cope with with spiking consumption.
According to the US Agriculture Department, meat, beef and pork production reached a record high in March this year at 5 billion pounds up 13 percent from the 4.43 billion pounds produced in March 2019.
However, beef processing in the US was down 27%, and pork processing was down almost 20%, compared to this time last year, according to USDA data arising from the closure more than a dozen processing facilities.
While media reports indicate that a large number of employees have tested positive for the virus, meat processing companies are expected to deploy stiffer measures in order to protect their employees and curtail the spread of the virus.
Major meat processors such as Smithfield, Tyson and others say they’ve put measures in place, like temperature checks and plexiglass to encourage social distancing in some areas and to help keep their workers safe.
The order has already agitated employee lobby groups with North Carolina Democratic Rep. Alma Adams, who chairs the House Workplace Protections Subcommittee, maintaining that the plants “should not reopen without unprecedented protections and safeguards for workers and livestock.”