President Donald Trump on Tuesday will sign an executive order declaring the food supply chain is critical infrastructure and order meat processing plants to remain open amid scares of a shortage.
Trump will use the Defense Production Act to order the plants to stay open, a person familiar with the order told DailyMail.com, and the government will provide additional protective gear to the employees.
The president confirmed to reporters he would be signing an order late Tuesday.
‘We’re going to sign an executive order today, I believe,’ Trump said in the Oval office. ‘We’ll be in very good shape. We’re working with Tyson, one of the big companies in that world. We always work with the farmers.’
‘There’s plenty of supply, it’s distribution,’ he added. ‘And we will probably have that today solved. It’s a very unique circumstance, because of liability.’
Earlier Tuesday Trump tried to calm mounting fears of a food crisis by telling Americans ‘there is no shortage of meat.’
The country’s largest meat companies – including Smithfield Foods Inc , Cargill Inc , JBS USA and Tyson Foods Inc – have halted operations at about 20 slaughterhouses and processing plants in North America since April after workers became ill with the coronavirus, sparking fears of a meat shortage.
The president took to twitter to try and calm concerns, retweeting a post from The Counter, a nonprofit that examines the nation’s food supply.
‘First, there is no shortage of meat destined for the grocery store shelf. It might take stores longer than usual to restock certain products, due to supply chain disruptions. But we have many millions of pounds of meat in cold storage across the nation,’ it read.
President Donald Trump tried to calm mounting fears of a food crisis by telling Americans ‘there is no shortage of meat’
President Trump retweeted a message about the country’s meat supply
The pork industry has been hit especially hard by the coronavirus as meat processing plants have closed throughout the country
The USDA reported last week there is 921 million pounds of chicken in storage and 467 million pounds of boneless beef, including hamburger, roasts and steaks.
The demand for meat has gone up under stay-at-home orders with more Americans cooking instead of eating out.
But before much of that meat could be sold at grocery stores it would need to be recut and repackaged, as restaurants buy in greater bulk than an individual at a market.
Even if there is no shortage of meat, prices are expect to rise and selection is expected to decrease as companies warn that grocery shelves may take longer to fill.
The Agriculture said last week beef prices are expect to rise 1% to 2% this year, poultry as much as 1.5% and pork between by from 2% and 3%.
More than 5,000 meat and food processing workers have been infected by the coronavirus and 13 have died, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union said last week.
Meanwhile, live stock farmers are facing difficult choices. With meat processing plants unable to take animals, the farmers are considering having piglets aborted and euthanizing animals as they run out of space to house them.
The pork industry typically slaughters around 510,000 pigs daily for bacon, hams and sausage.
But, because of the coronavirus, plants that handle one-fifth of the daily total, or 105,000 pigs a day, have closed – leading to a backup on farms and raising the prospect of having to euthanize them and then render or bury the carcasses, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The pork industry has been hit especially hard. Three of the largest process plants in the United States have gone offline indefinitely: Smithfield Foods in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, JBS pork processing in Worthington, Minnesota and Tyson Fresh Foods in Waterloo, Iowa.
Unlike cattle, which can be housed outside in fields, hogs are fattened up inside temperature-controlled buildings. If they stay too long, they get big and injure themselves. Mature animals have to be moved out before the sows who were impregnated before the pandemic give birth.
‘We have nowhere to go with the pigs,’ Iowa farmer Al Van Beek told Reuters. ‘What are we going to do?’
The president’s reassurance also comes as the chairman of Tyson Foods warned Sunday that ‘the food supply chain’ is breaking after coronavirus outbreaks forced the closure of their plants.
John Tyson said ‘millions of pounds of meat’ will fail to reach stores and there will be a ‘limited supply of our products available in grocery stores’ until they are able to reopen facilities currently closed.
Tyson Foods announced last week that it was shuttering two pork processing plants, including its largest in the United States, to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
‘We have a responsibility to feed our country. It is as essential as healthcare. This is a challenge that should not be ignored. Our plants must remain operational so that we can supply food to our families in America,’ John Tyson said.
‘This is a delicate balance because Tyson Foods places team member safety as our top priority.’
Tyson Foods, the largest U.S. meat supplier, said it will indefinitely suspend operations at its largest pork plant in Waterloo, Iowa, pictured, after operating at reduced capacity
ATyson Foods Inc unit said on Thursday it will temporarily halt production at a beef facility in Pasco, Washington, pictured, adding to the meat processing plant the company has had to shutter as it tests workers for COVID-19
Tyson also closed a pork processing facility in Logansport, Indiana, pictured, while its more than 2,200 workers at the plant undergo testing for COVID-19
Tyson Foods, the largest U.S. meat supplier, said it will indefinitely suspend operations at its largest pork plant in Waterloo, Iowa, after operating at reduced capacity.
Tyson also closed a pork processing facility in Logansport, Indiana, while its more than 2,200 workers at the plant undergo testing for COVID-19.
John Tyson, pictured, has warned that ‘the food supply chain’ is breaking
The company also temporarily closed a beef processing plant in Pasco, Washington.
The closures are limiting the amount of meat the United States can produce during the outbreak and adding stress on farmers who are losing markets for their pigs.
Lockdowns that aim to stop the spread of the coronavirus have also prevented farmers around the globe from delivering food products to consumers.
Millions of laborers cannot get to fields for harvesting and planting, and there are too few truckers to keep goods moving.
Tyson’s statement, in the form of an advert in a number of newspapers on Sunday, came after workers at plants argued they were not being protected by their employer.
Employers have struggled to contain the virus in meatpacking plants, where workers toil side by side on production lines and often share crowded locker rooms, cafeterias and rides to work.
One Tyson worker at the plant in Waterloo told CNN he called HR amid concerns coronavirus was at the facility.
Ernest Latiker said: ‘I was scared for me and my family. They told me I was safe and they told me that everything was ok.
‘They told me I have a better chance of catching the coronavirus going out to Walmart than at Tyson, if you come to work you’re safe.
‘I wanted to believe to them and I needed the money at the same time so I went to work.’
Tyson Foods worker Ernest Latiker, pictured, said he called HR amid coronavirus concerns
Tyson’s statement in the form of an advert in a number of newspapers on Sunday came after workers at plants argued they were not being protected by their employer
Spread of coronavirus closes meat plants
Some of the facilities that have shut or reduced production as coronavirus spreads:
JBS USA said it would indefinitely close a pork plant in Worthington, Minnesota, that processes 20,000 hogs a day.
JBS closed a beef plant in Greeley, Colorado, until April 24.
Smithfield Foods indefinitely shut a Sioux Falls, South Dakota, plant that produces about 4% to 5% of U.S. pork.
Smithfield also shuttered two plants in Wisconsin and Missouri that process bacon and ham.
Tyson Foods Inc closed a hog slaughterhouse in Columbus Junction, Iowa. It has since reopened
National Beef Packing Co suspended cattle slaughtering at an Iowa Premium beef plant in Tama, Iowa
National Beef said it suspended operations at a Dodge City, Kansas, beef plant for cleaning and to install stainless steel partitions
Aurora Packing Company temporarily closed a beef plant in Aurora, Illinois
JBS shut a beef plant in Souderton, Pennsylvania. It reopened on April 20
Cargill closed a plant in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, that produces meat for U.S. grocery stores
The health department in Ogle County, Illinois, on April 17 ordered a Rochelle Foods plant owned by Hormel Foods Corp to close for two weeks
Hormel-owned Alma Foods suspended production at a Kansas plant until May 4
Sanderson Farms Inc reduced chicken production to 1 million birds a week from 1.3 million at a plant in Moultrie, Georgia.
‘Consumers will see an impact at the grocery store as production slows,’ Tyson Fresh Meats Group President Steve Stouffer had said last week.
‘It means the loss of a vital market outlet for farmers and further contributes to the disruption of the nation’s pork supply.’
After the closure of the Logansport facility, slaughterhouses that account for 19 per cent of pork production in the United States will be shut.
And coronavirus-related staffing shortages at chicken processing plants will lead farms in Maryland and Delaware to destroy nearly two million chickens.
The Baltimore Sun reported Friday that the plants are unable to keep pace with the number of birds that are ready for harvest. They had been placed into poultry houses as chicks several weeks ago.
The chickens will not be processed for meat.
The trade group the Delmarva Poultry Industry said that every poultry plant on the Delmarva Peninsula has struggled with a reduced worker attendance. The reasons include workers being sick with the coronavirus and people following guidance to stay home if sick.
The Delmarva Peninsula includes parts of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.
The trade group said that one unidentified company has become the first to do what’s called ‘depopulation.’ The trade group said the company was unable to find other options, such as allowing another company to take the chickens.
Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc said the chickens will killed ‘using approved, humane methods’.
The former Chief Veterinary Officer for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, John Clifford, said at the time of avian flu ‘the fastest way and probably the most humane way to take care of this’ was to ‘shut off ventilation systems.’
The trade group said that the extermination methods have been approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association for handling cases of infectious avian disease.