Governor Kim Reynolds and U.S. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue today said the nation’s meat supply should be stabilized within 10 days. Reynolds was in the Oval Office earlier this afternoon for a meeting with President Trump. She indicated Iowa packing plants are reopening and will be operating at excess capacity soon.
“We’re going to hopefully prevent what could have been, you know, a really sorry situation where we were euthanizing some of our protein supply and really impacting the food supply not only across the country, but throughout the world,” Reynolds said.
The Tyson meatpacking plant in Waterloo that closed April 22nd will reopen tomorrow. Reynolds told President Trump the pork plant in Perry where more than half of workers tested positive for COVID-19 has ramped back up to 60 percent capacity. Reynolds said employees “feel better” about returning to work alongside people who tested negative for COVID-19.
“With the testing, with the PPE, with the restructuring in the facilities, they’re also doing a lot of that as well, to try to social distance where they can, to put in shield where they can, to look at the lines, to separate the shifts,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds said Iowa’s packing plants have “turned the corner” and will be able to meet consumer demand soon.
“As we continue to keep them up and processing and bring more back on line and continue to exceed the capacity,” Reynolds said.
U.S. Ag Secretary and Vice President Mike Pence as well as Reynolds and Trump answered questions from a group of reporters. Pence said Iowa is “leading the pack” in its efforts to mitigate COVID-19 impacts and keep food production going.
“One of the great stories of the coronavirus outbreak has been that our food supply has continue to work every day,” Pence said, “from the field to the fork, to the grocers, to the meat processors.”
Pence plans to be in Iowa Friday and he’ll meet with farmers and food industry leaders to discuss the security of the U.S. food supply. President Trump saod he had his own conversation with packing plant executives about meat shortages.
“These are big companies, actually,” Trump said. “You wouldn’t believe how many plants they have and I think it was a very strong talk and I think they got the message, so within a week-and-a-half we should be in great shape, maybe sooner.”
In addition, Trump has asked the Justice Department to investigate whether meat packers are engaging in price gouging in the midst of the pandemic. Farmers are getting low prices for their livestock, but the price of meat in the grocery store is rising.
“It shouldn’t be happening that way and we want to protect our farmers,” Trump said. “…Supply and demand should not allow that to happen.”
Reynolds told Trump and Pence she’s starting to reopen the state to business activity because testing capacity has expanded and about 80 percent of I-C-U beds and ventilators in Iowa hospitals are open for COVID-19 patients.
(This post was updated at 7:20 p.m. with additional information.)