Update on Processing Plants and Worker Safety

President Trump’s executive order has brought some processing plants back online. Several other plants across the country plan to reopen on Monday following a long weekend of deep cleaning.

Burger’s Smokehouse in Missouri reopened yesterday.

A Smithfield Foods facility, based in Monmouth, Illinois, will resume production tomorrow.

Quality Sausage in Dallas, Texas is closed.

As we have previously reported, the JBS facility in Greeley, Colorado resumed operation a week ago, but cases have more than doubled at the plant and now it is reported that a sixth employee is dead.

The growing concern over the coronavirus has sparked a lawsuit against a Smithfield Foods plant in Milan, Missouri. There are no reported cases at the facility, but the lawyer representing the anonymous employee says that the plant is “picking and choosing” what CDC guidelines to follow.

One main issue with reopening processing plant is worker safety. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue says that he is working with agencies to get supplies out fast. While The Defense Production Act helps support both financially and legally with this effort, a big concern is workers’ confidence that it is safe to go back to the plants.

In Minnesota, Gov. Tim Walz has created a task force to help keep plant workers safe and bring plants back online in a timely manner. Members of the task force will include individuals from the governors office, plant representatives, members of the worker’s union, and individuals from the departments of health and agriculture.

House Ag Committee Chairman, Collin Peterson stated, “The plants need to run at a scale and a speed that accounts for the reduced workforce levels we’ll have as we get started. Only after workers are confident those needs are met can plants reopen safely.”

For all updates on the Coronavirus and how it impacts Rural America, visit our Coronavirus outbreak hub.