Now that President Trump has issued an executive order to keep the meat factories open, nearly 50 U.S. officials are asking the administration what steps they will take to protect factory workers during the coronavirus pandemic.
In a letter to the Secretaries of Agriculture, Labor, Health and Social Services, the Representatives said: “Neither the decree nor the press release subsequently published by the Ministry of Agriculture contains information on coordination between federal agencies to provide PPE or on plans to increase coronavirus testing for employees of the factory and surrounding communities. “They pointed out that, according to the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, more than 6,500 workers in meat processing plants tested positive or quarantined, and 20 workers have died since the start of the coronavirus pandemic .
Members asked a series of questions, including what was the schedule for all employees to receive personal protective equipment; what enforcement measures will be used to ensure that factories comply with directives from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; will there be more tests in factories; and how the federal government coordinates with businesses, employees, local communities, and state and local health services.
The letter was organized by representatives Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) and Marcia Fudge (D-OH).
A group of 16 senators ask President Trump to amend his recent executive order to keep the meat factories running “reopen only “after meeting all health and safety guidelines issued by OSHA and the CDC.
Senators say in letter to Trump: “Without immediate and comprehensive federal intervention to ensure the health and safety of workers at these plants, workers in the meat processing industry will remain at high risk of contracting the virus and the virus. factories will continue to be a major vector of significant infection. Failure to take action to protect these workers is not only a threat to their lives, but also to the public health of their communities. “
The organizers of the letter were Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Jack Reed (D-RI).
Liability protection request for companies opened during COVID-19
A coalition of more than 200 professional associations is asking Congress to provide liability protection for companies that remained open during the pandemic.
Associations say in letter to House and Senate leadership: “By providing limited and rational safe ports for good actors, Congress can help ensure that the critical needs of the American people are met in this time of crisis and enable the continued operation of critical infrastructure. “
Signatories to the letter include the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Pork Producers Council, the National Chicken Council, the North American Meat Institute, the National Association of Wheat Growers, the Beer Institute and The Fertilizer Institute.
Trump asks DOJ to investigate livestock industry
After 11 state attorneys general asked the Department of Justice to investigate the concentration and potential anti-competitive practices of packers in the livestock industry, President Trump ordered the DOJ to proceed with the investigation.
State attorneys general in the letter to the United States attorney general, William Barr, said: “Given the concentrated market structure of the beef industry, it can be particularly sensitive to market manipulation, especially in times of food insecurity, such as the current COVID-19 crisis. “They note the disparity between the price of live cattle and the retail price of beef for consumers,” the futures on livestock living recently hit 18-year lows, while canned beef prices and consumer demand remain healthy. “
The signatory states of the letter were North Dakota, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming.
FTC asked to investigate concentration in meat packaging
Senses Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) are asking the Federal Trade Commission to conduct an antitrust investigation into the meat packaging industry regarding anti-competitive behavior due to industry concentration.
In a letter to the FTC, senators say: “As a result, farmers cannot process their livestock – which is costly to maintain – and consumers may experience shortages in grocery stores, exacerbating the food insecurity that too many Americans currently experience. These harms could have been mitigated if the meat packaging industry was less concentrated. The current COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the vulnerabilities of American supply chains and the importance of ensuring that, in the event of a disaster, American food supplies are not in the hands of a few, mainly foreign, companies . “
Producers and Industry Thank Trump for Decree
Producer groups and the meat industry thanked President Trump for issuing an executive order to keep factories open during the coronavirus pandemic.
The letter says, “Feeding Americans is a non-partisan issue, and we are proud to work with the leaders of our country to avoid disruptions and supply chain difficulties for hundreds of thousands of farmers and breeders across the country and keep safe and affordable food on the plates of millions of Americans. “
The signatories to the letter were the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the National Chicken Council, the National Pork Producers Council, the National Turkey Federation and the North American Meat Institute.
USDA announces $ 470 million in commodity purchases
The USDA will buy an additional $ 470 million in commodity purchases this year. This is in addition to the purchases already announced. Products are pork, dairy, chicken, turkey, catfish, seafood, asparagus, orange juice, pears, potatoes, prunes, raisins, strawberries, sweet potatoes and tart cherries.
The products will be distributed to food banks, schools and others to help those in need.
US, UK begin trade negotiations
The United States and the United Kingdom officially launched negotiations on a trade agreement this week.
In a joint statement, the United States Trade Ambassador Robert Lighthizer and British Secretary of State for International Trade Elizabeth Truss said: “An FTA is a priority for both countries and we share the commitment to reach an ambitious agreement which significantly boosts trade and investment. We will engage in negotiations at an accelerated pace and we have committed the resources necessary to progress at a rapid pace. “
The United States is the largest economy in the world and the United Kingdom is fifth. Bilateral trade between countries is $ 269 billion.
200 year old House Agricultural Committee
The House Agriculture Committee was created 200 years ago this week, May 3. The first president was Thomas Forrest of Pennsylvania. There were seven members on the first committee. The Senate Committee on Agriculture was created in 1825.
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