Updated Apr 29, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump orders meat processing plants to stay open during coronavirus pandemic

President Donald Trump answers questions while meeting with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in the Oval Office
Photo: Doug Mills/The New York Times via Getty Images

President Trump signed an executive order on Tuesday requiring meat processing plants to stay open under the Defense Production Act during the coronavirus pandemic.

Why it matters: America's food supply chain is at risk due to coronavirus outbreaks in rural meatpacking plant communities.

  • Food processing plants in more than a dozen states have closed in recent weeks, spanning beef, pork, poultry and fish.

Details: A White House official tells Axios that the five-page order was driven by concern that certain processing companies, like Tyson Foods, were planning to keep only 20% of facilities open.

  • "The vast majority of processing plants could have shut down, reducing processing capacity in the country by as much as 80%," the official said.
  • The order will label processing plants as "critical infrastructure."
  • The White House also plans to work with the Labor Department to issue new guidance that would provide additional liability protections and help protect food supply workers who are at high risk of experiencing complications from COVID-19.

What they're saying: "The White House feels like it’s a critical time ... when a key part of the food supply chain was at risk of substantively reducing capacity," the official said.

  • "We see it as an urgent need, and there should not be a panic on food supply at a moment when our country is embarking on the path of recovery from the fallout of COVID."

Go deeper: Coronavirus breaks the food supply chain

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