Trump Set to Order Meatpacking to Stay Open As Plants Deal with Staff Shortage

If this continues, experts say it could drastially effect the nation's food supply chain.

SUPERIOR, Wis. On Tuesday President Donald Trump said he will sign a five-page executive order declaring meat processing plants critical infrastructure, ordering them to remain open–as facilities are dealing with a shortage of workers and an increase in demand.

“We always work with the farmers,” Trump said. “There’s plenty of supplies, as you know this, plenty of supply, it’s distribution and we will probably have that today solved.”

Trump will use the Defense Production Act to keep plants open, while the government supplies Personal Protective Equipment to workers. “That’ll solve any liability problems when they had certain liability problems and we’ll be in very good shape,” said the President.

According to meat suppliers across the country, demand is up at least 50% the last six weeks, but they’re losing workers to keep up with it. With slaughterhouses backed up, many processing facilities are forced to euthanize animals.

All that, officials said, could have drastic effects on the nation’s food supply chain.

“There is a concern over the food supply chain. If we don’t have enough food processing workers to manage these plants, then that backs up our food supply,” said Sonny Perdue, United States Secretary of Agriculture.

Tyson Foods confirmed six workers have died from COVID-19 this month. The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union reports a total of 20 meatpacking and food processing workers have died so far.

Additionally, the Union said at least 13 processing plants have closed over the past two months, and more across the country have no choice but to temporarily shut down.

And that impacts meat prices here in the Twin Ports. “Prices have gone up,” Benjamin Buchanan, manager of Superior Meats said.

Suppliers for meat shops like Superior Meats are having to shoulder the extra demand from the closed plants.

“It has been a little more difficult to get some product in. We’re still getting product in, it’s just sometimes it’s, sometimes we’re not getting it in as quickly as we normally would,” said Buchanan.

One thing customers can do to get ahead of rising prices is buy meat bundles. “When you buy in bulk like that you do end up saving,” the manager said, “it gives you a wide variety of meats for a decent price.”

Right now, Buchanan said, there’s no telling how prices will change in the coming weeks. “It all depends.”

“Basically it’s kind of wait and see,” he said. “Every truck that comes in I have to check the prices, and change prices in my case accordingly.”

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