President Trump declares meat-processing plants critical infrastructure to keep them open


With meat plant closures continuing around the country, President Trump took executive action to order the plants remain open by declaring the facilities as critical infrastructure.

The order uses the Defense Production Act to classify meat processing as critical infrastructure to try to prevent a shortage of chicken, pork and other meat on supermarket shelves.

“Such closures threaten the continued functioning of the national meat and poultry supply chain, undermining critical infrastructure during the national emergency,” the order states.

The order was developed after the White House consulted with industry leaders including Smithfield and Tyson. Over the weekend, the Tyson’s Chairman John Tyson wrote the food supply chain “was breaking” in a national newspaper advertisement.

The processing industry began to be directly impacted by coronavirus on March 31, when a JBS plant in Pennsylvania reduced production. Since then, dozens of plants throughout the country have either cut back production or closed down altogether following outbreaks. Estimates say 25 percent of the nation’s pork processing capacity and 10 percent of its beef capacity are currently offline.

The lack of processing capacity has forced hog farmers in both Nebraska and Minnesota to begin euthanizing animals. The USDA has set up a program to aid producers in aid producers in depopulation.

“It’s something we don’t take lightly it’s a very last resort item we need to do,” Terry O’Neal, a Nebraska hog farmer and former president of the National Pork Board, said of euthanizing livestock. “It’s not because of economics it’s just a matter of fact - we have no place to go with them.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.