Photo Credit: Robert Couse-Baker via PxHere (CC-by-2.0)

Last Wednesday, at the invitation of House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., I went to Worthington, Minnesota to participate in a press conference to focus attention on the current crisis in the pork industry that has been caused by the temporary closure of processing plants in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Producers throughout the Midwest are being faced with the nightmare of having to euthanize perhaps 1.25 million, or likely more, healthy, market-ready hogs. Chairman Peterson is a good friend, and I am grateful that he requested my assistance to help him with the public messaging effort.

The pork processing crisis, and the euthanization of healthy hogs, is a nightmare scenario I never thought I would see happen in the United States of America. To help visualize the scope of the problem, these euthanized hogs laid end-to-end would stretch down the Southbound lane of I-35 from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Dallas, Texas.

Fortunately, President Trump has taken a timely and correct act to help ensure the security of the nation’s food supply network. I commend him for having invoked the Defense Production Act to keep processing plants open. His actions will help ensure the continued supply of pork, beef, and poultry to the American people. Under the President’s order, “the Department of Agriculture is directed to ensure America’s meat and poultry processors continue operations uninterrupted to the maximum extent possible.” In addition, “to ensure worker safety, these processors will continue to follow the latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).” I’ve been working with the White House and through the USDA with our pork producers to get this done, and I am pleased the President has moved forward with it.

Speaking of President Trump, I have also asked him to send every packing plant all the testing and PPE needed to ensure the maximum safety of our workers. I met with United Food and Commercials Workers Local 663 President Matt Utecht, and the requests that he made to me for worker safety (temperature checks, testing for the virus and antibodies, PPE’s, slowing lines for social distancing, isolating sick workers) are all doable and reasonable. I encourage the President to take the steps that will give our workers confidence to resume their jobs at these plants.

Keeping processing plants open is an important issue, and not just for the pork producers. I dread the prospect that the same kind of scenario could play out in the cattle industry as well. We must keep our plants open, our workers protected, and our producers in business!

It is important that we develop a strong Federal response to the pork processing crisis. There is a three part strategy we need to implement to do this correctly. This includes ensuring the employees have the confidence to work in the plants through testing, providing them with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and determining what additional federal resources it will take to keep our producers in business. 

I would also like to take a moment to praise the “Pass the Pork” initiative that Gov. Kim Reynolds and the Iowa Department of Agriculture announced.  This program allows pork producers to donate hogs to food banks throughout Iowa. Instead of the hogs being wasted, hungry families in our state will be fed with the best pork in the world. I salute our state officials for developing this commonsense program, and I encourage interested parties to visit the Iowa Department of Agriculture’s website for more information.

It was a sad mission that I had to undertake to Worthington, Minn. With focused responses, however, we can ensure our food supply chain remains strong, our workers are protected, and that our producers remain in business.

2 comments
  1. The meat packing plants did not follow the 6 foot distancing, wear masks, or much of anything else that the Gov Reynold’s insisted that everyone else do. The restaurants had to close, no weekly church service, only hang out in groups of ten, no playing on the playgrounds, closing the schools, and all non essential business.closed and if your sick stay home. Our county went from 100 some cases to over 1500 due to Tyson’s in just two short weeks. Looks like its going to be a long haul for any city with a meat packing plant.

    1. Yeah, I’ve been pretty disgusted with our meat processing industry. If they had spread after implementing mitigation efforts, fine, but it’s obvious they were not doing enough.

Comments are closed.

Get CT In Your Inbox!

Don't miss a single update.

You May Also Like

Absentee Balloting Period Underway for Upcoming Iowa Primary

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate reminds Iowans that the absentee balloting period for the June 5 primary is now underway. Voters can request an absentee ballot through their county auditor’s office. They can also vote in-person at the county auditor’s office.

Christie Vilsack’s Big Cover Up on the Campaign Trail

Just a few years ago, Christie Vilsack was Director of Planned Parenthood…

King Announces Dates For Town Hall Meetings

Congressman Steve King (R-Iowa) announced dates for upcoming town hall meetings he plans to hold in every county in Iowa’s 4th Congressional District.

Twenty-One Iowa Legislators to Retire in 2018

Twenty-one Iowa Legislators have decided not to run for reelection in 2018. The Iowa House will have 16 members retire after this session. Twelve Republicans and four Democrats will leave the House. The Iowa Senate Republicans will have two retirements and Democrats will see three.