Updated content throughout — President Donald J. Trump has by Executive Order placed the American meat industry under the Defense Production Act to prevent meat shortages by keeping meat processing plants open.

The Defense Production Act or DPA was passed by Congress in 1950 and signed into law by President Harry Truman. Under the DPA, the president is empowered to direct private companies to act in the national interest during times of war, national emergency, or after terrorist attacks. President Trump previously used the DPA to increase the production of health care supplies.

Meat slaughter and processing plants are being declared “critical infrastructure” for the duration of the coronavirus outbreak to prevent any further disruptions or shortages in the food supply

Top companies in the meat and poultry industries since early April have used temporary closures when COVID-19 was cutting into staffing levels.

Closures and production reductions cut pork capacities by as much as 25 percent and beef production by as much as 10 percent.

Port producers and cattlemen on America’s farms and ranches have been hammered by this loss of production as markets for animals “on the hoof” plunged.   

John Tyson said in company advertising this past weekend that the supply chain is broken. After predictions that 80 percent of meat production could eventually be shut down, Trump acted.

The Executive Order follows the release of joint guidance for meat plants that was issued earlier this week by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).  

By enacting the DPA, the meatpacking and processing facilities should be able to receive more tests and protective gear as they remain open. Trump was urged to take the action by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and Iowa Sens. Joni Ernst and “Chuck” Grassley.

The meat, fresh produce, and dairy industries were turned upside down when restaurants and institutions like schools were shut down over the virus scares.

Farm state officials are also asking for federal reimbursement to hog farmers who say they are being forced to euthanizing pigs because they’ve lost viable markets.

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue released the following statement after President Trump signed the  Executive Order to keep meat and poultry processing facilities open during the COVID-19 national emergency.

“I thank President Trump for signing this executive order and recognizing the importance of keeping our food supply chain safe, secure, and plentiful. Our nation’s meat and poultry processing facilities play an integral role in the continuity of our food supply chain,” said  Perdue.

“Maintaining the health and safety of these heroic employees in order to ensure that these critical facilities can continue operating is paramount. I also want to thank the companies who are doing their best to keep their workforce safe as well as keeping our food supply sustained. USDA will continue to work with its partners across the federal government to ensure employee safety to maintain this essential industry.

Under the Executive Order and the authority of the Defense Production Act, USDA will work with meat processing to affirm they will operate in accordance with the CDC and OSHA guidelines and then work with state and local officials to ensure that these plants are allowed to operate to produce the meat protein that Americans need.

USDA will continue to work with the CDC, OSHA, FDA, and state and local health department officials to ensure that facilities implementing this guidance to keep employees safe can continue operating.

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