USDA secretary: ‘No, I don’t’ expect food shortage

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue said Friday that he does not expect a food shortage to ensue as a result of coronavirus outbreaks in meat processing plants across the country. 

“We track, daily, our plant openings. One of the challenges we had in protein — meat, poultry, beef, pork — had been the closure of some of our processing plants there,” Perdue said on NPR’s “Morning Edition” Friday. “And we’ve had infections in those plants that caused some temporary closures. Essentially all those plants are back open.” 

When asked by NPR host Steve Inskeep if he anticipates widespread food shortages in the coming months, Purdue replied:No, I don’t.”

Perdue said that meat production has “turned the corner, and while some retailers are suggesting they may not have the degree of variety that they once had, we expect that to be cured very quickly,” adding that he expects them to be back up to 85 to 90 percent production in the coming weeks. 

The coronavirus outbreaks in major meat processing facilities last month exposed the fragility of the nation’s meat supply chain. President Trump invoked the 1950 Defense Production Act (DPA) this month to declare the plants “critical infrastructure,” compelling facilities to remain open during the pandemic.

However, the reopenings raised questions about worker safety as union leaders requested extra protections for employees who typically work in close quarters. Perdue said the USDA is working with health officials to assure another outbreak doesn’t occur.

“We work with local health authorities, local elected officials, as well as the companies and the workers themselves to understand,” Perdue told NPR. “We provided [personal protective equipment], face shields, masks and other things into the plants there, as well as testing where required to get the workers confident so they’re operating in a safe working environment.”

Tags Coronavirus COVID-19 Donald Trump Food industry Meat industry Smithfield Foods Sonny Perdue Sonny Perdue Tyson Foods United States Department of Agriculture

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