President Donald Trump is expected to issue an executive order that would mandate the continued operation of meat-packing plants across the United States.
According to Bloomberg, a source familiar with the matter said the order would involve invocation of the Defense Production Act and classify meat-processing facilities as critical infrastructure amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which threatens to disrupt food supply chains.
Federal officials would in turn procure all personal protective equipment necessary for the packaging facilities to remain in operation and provide industry managers with public health guidance.
BREAKING: Trump plans to order meat processing plants to STAY OPEN, declaring them critical infrastructure under Defense Production Act. Order meant to stave off shortage of beef, chicken, eggs, pork. Plant closures could have shut down as much as 80% of capacity, source says.— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) April 28, 2020
Sources told Bloomberg the president first mentioned the potential order Tuesday in a White House meeting, feeling such action would protect Tyson Foods from liability concerns for remaining open.
The order would not, however, be confined to Tyson, instead being aimed at ensuring industry-wide stability for the remainder of the national emergency.
Local officials and labor unions in several states have recently pushed back against the meat industry’s efforts to bolster production as confirmed COVID-19 cases continue to surge within the U.S., citing work conditions and increased health risk to employees.
Representing roughly one-third of the nation’s meat-processing infrastructure, Smithfield Foods and JBS USA were both forced to close the doors of several key production plants earlier this months as a result of people contracting the virus in the workplace, according to USA Today.
The most notable closure thus far has been that of Smithfield’s Sioux Falls, South Dakota, processing plant.
More than 40 percent of people diagnosed with COVID-19 in the state are workers at the plant, The Associated Press reported.
Tyson and others across the industry have not fared much better, also forced to shutter numerous locations due to potential virus exposure.
In an open letter to consumers, Tyson Foods Chairman John Tyson warned that “millions of pounds of meat will disappear from the supply chain” if circumstances do not change soon.
Pres @realDonaldTrump is right 2use authority 2 keep open meat processing plants Its critical infrastructure 4 country's food supply chain As saying goes society is 9 meals away from food riots Fed govt shld help w PPE&testing/plants need 2follow CDC&OSHA guidance 2protect wrkers— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) April 28, 2020
And with economic estimates suggesting more than 80 percent of the nation’s beef, chicken, egg and pork suppliers may soon be forced to press pause, according to Bloomberg, the Trump administration has grown keen on applying its aggressive opening strategy to the meat industry.
Mass closures across the meat industry in Iowa left Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst and Gov. Kim Reynolds calling this week for immediate invocation of the Defense Production Act.
Grassley was quick to praise the president on social media as rumors of the coming executive order first made their way into the media.
The Western Journal reached out to the White House for comment but did not immediately receive a response.