President Trump plans to sign an executive order invoking the Defense Production Act to compel meat processing plants to remain open during the coronavirus pandemic, Bloomberg first reported Tuesday.
The order would classify meat processing plants as essential infrastructure, with federal government officials providing protective gear and guidance to workers. Government officials have reportedly estimated that up to 80 percent of the country’s meat supply could be shut down during the pandemic.
The plan could face opposition from workers at the facilities. Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union which represents meat-production workers, said the Trump administration had not developed safety requirements that could have prevented plant shutdowns.
“We only wish that this administration cared as much about the lives of working people as it does about meat, pork and poultry products,” Appelbaum told Bloomberg.
Several large processing facilities have already been forced to close because of coronavirus outbreaks among workers.
“As pork, beef and chicken plants are being forced to close, even for short periods of time, millions of pounds of meat will disappear from the supply chain,” John Tyson, Chairman of the Board of Tyson Foods, wrote in a full-page advertisement in the New York Times on Sunday. “As a result, there will be limited supply of our products available in grocery stores until we are able to reopen our facilities that are currently closed.”
In addition to supply-chain disruptions, the agriculture industry also faces upheaval from restaurant and school closures, which decrease demand of the quantity of certain foods.