President Trump has signed an executive order that requires all U.S meatpacking plants to continue operating.
Pork plants in Waterloo and Columbus Junction and the beef plant in Tama temporarily shut down after outbreaks of COVID-19 among workers. Tonight, Trump invoked the Defense Production Act, designating pork, beef and poultry processing plants as critical infrastructure that must remain open.
Experts say U.S. meat production has been reduced by as much as 30 percent due to plant closures and reduced processing, forcing farmers to consider euthanizing animals. U.S. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue said the president’s order will ensure the continuity of the U.S. food supply chain and he pledged to continue to work with the industry to ensure employee safety.
A coalition of environmental and labor groups known as the Blue Green Alliance accused President Trump of forcing employees to return to work in unsafe conditions. The United Food and Commercial Workers Union issued a statement saying America’s meatpacking workers and the nation’s food supply are in greater danger every day.
Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer, a Democrat from Dubuque, said in a written statement that steps must be taken to protect workers and keep the food supply chain strong during this unprecedented crisis, but more must be done to ensure the safety “of essential employees literally putting their lives on the line to keep food on our tables.”
J.D. Sholten, the Democrat running in Iowa’s fourth congressional district, cited the surge in COVID-19 cases in his hometown of Sioux City which many suspect are linked to a nearby packing plant. Scholten said in a written statement that ordering meat processing plants to stay open puts workers and the surrounding communities at risk.
Republican Governor Kim Reynolds said in a tweet that meat processing plants are critical to the food supply and she supports President Trump taking action.
Republican Senator Chuck Grassley tweeted that the president was right to keep meat processing plants open because “as the saying goes, society is nine meals away from food riots.” Grassley also said the federal government should help supply PPE and testing and the plants need to protect workers by following the guidance of health experts.
Republican Senator Joni Ernst tweeted that she’s glad the president took action, but she also emphasized that the plants should “adhere” to CDC and OSHA guidelines.