WASHINGTON — Coronavirus-related closures and slow downs at some of the country's largest meat packing plants has led to issues for farmers and has prompted concerns about the U.S. food supply chain.
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump delivered remarks at the White House on the topic of "supporting our nation's farmers, ranchers and food supply chain."
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue noted during a forum last week that these "unprecedented times have put the supply chain to the test," Roll Call reports. And as farmers and ranchers begin to ask for millions in relief dollars, the onus will fall on the USDA and Perdue to deal with it all.
As Perdue put it during the May 12 forum, “It’s been quite a scramble.”
Perdue addressed assistance Tuesday that the USDA will be providing to help farmers with these pressing issues.
The meat packing industry has been dealing with a number of production challenges caused by the coronavirus, and several large plants had to close temporarily because of outbreaks. At least 30 U.S. meatpacking workers have died of COVID-19 and another 10,000 have been infected or exposed to the virus, according to the United Food and Commercial Workers union, which represents roughly 80% of the country's beef and pork workers and 33% of its poultry workers.
Hogs that were projected to be ready this spring and summer for market will be at a mature age and it won't be possible to process them. U.S. pork producers are calling this the "COVID Bottleneck," and one group warns that 10 million pigs may need to be euthanized by September.
The National Pork Producers Council has asked for $505 million to help pay for costs related to euthanasia and disposal of the carcasses. Additionally, the council is asking for congress to fund $1.173 billion in federal aid for farmers who can't sell pigs due to plant closures or slow downs.