President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Tuesday evening to protect America’s food supply chain from disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which originated in China.
“It is important that processors of beef, pork, and poultry (“meat and poultry”) in the food supply chain continue operating and fulfilling orders to ensure a continued supply of protein for Americans,” the order stated. “However, outbreaks of COVID-19 among workers at some processing facilities have led to the reduction in some of those facilities’ production capacity. In addition, recent actions in some States have led to the complete closure of some large processing facilities.”
The executive order highlighted how closing facilities in the national meat and poultry supply chain undermined critical infrastructure, noting that “any unnecessary closures can quickly have a large effect on the food supply chain.”
The order added:
Under the delegation of authority provided in this order, the Secretary of Agriculture shall take all appropriate action under that section to ensure that meat and poultry processors continue operations consistent with the guidance for their operations jointly issued by the CDC and OSHA. Under the delegation of authority provided in this order, the Secretary of Agriculture may identify additional specific food supply chain resources that meet the criteria of section 101(b).
Secretary of Agriculture shall use the authority under section 101 of the Act, in consultation with the heads of such other executive departments and agencies as he deems appropriate, to determine the proper nationwide priorities and allocation of all the materials, services, and facilities necessary to ensure the continued supply of meat and poultry, consistent with the guidance for the operations of meat and poultry processing facilities jointly issued by the CDC and OSHA.
The action comes after the administration had private conversations with executives of major meat-processing companies to formulate a plan on how to combat and preempt food shortages.
The Wall Street Journal reported:
The coronavirus pandemic has upended the U.S. food supply chain in recent weeks, slashing prices and demand for agricultural commodities as restaurants and schools sit closed.
Meatpacking plants across the country have become hot spots for the virus, cutting production of chicken, beef and pork. Outbreaks at meat plants have sparked growing worry about the nation’s food supply.
More than a dozen major meatpacking plants in recent weeks have closed down following outbreaks among employees, and other workers choosing to stay home rather than risk infection.
Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) warned on Sunday about upcoming foot shortages as he urged the federal government to take action now to stop it.
“Other members of Congress own cattle, but only a few of us RAISE cattle,” Massie wrote in a Twitter thread. “I fix the fences, feed the hay, castrate bulls, fertilize fields, put tags in their ears, move them between pastures, wean calves. FOOD SHORTAGES ARE COMING. USDA needs to acknowledge and respond now.”
Other members of Congress own cattle, but only a few of us RAISE cattle.
I fix the fences, feed the hay, castrate bulls, fertilize fields, put tags in their ears, move them between pastures, wean calves.
FOOD SHORTAGES ARE COMING.
USDA needs to acknowledge and respond now.
— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) April 26, 2020
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