MINNEAPOLIS – House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), released a statement on April 30 backing the creation of local task forces which would study how to safely and efficiently reopen meatpacking facilities.
Peterson explained that the goal of the task forces would be to protect worker health and safety and begin to reduce the backup of hogs for processing in Minnesota and the rest of the United States.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz put together a task force to determine the steps needed to keep workers safe and get plants like the JBS Worthington, Minn., facility back online. Walz plans to work with representatives from JBS in Worthington, local leaders from the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union, the Minnesota Department of Health, and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.
“First, we’ve got to have testing done broadly enough to know exactly the scale of the infections,” Peterson said. “Second, workers need masks, face shields and other PPE, as well as a plan that keeps them a safe distance apart from each other. Our USDA meat inspectors need to be provided with the PPEs necessary to keep them safe and healthy as well. Finally, the plants need to run at a scale and a speed that accounts for the reduced workforce levels we’ll have as we get started. Only after workers are confident those needs are met can plants reopen safely.”
On April 29, JBS USA announced a reopening of its Worthington pork production plant to start humane euthanasia options for market hogs. The meat producer said it needed 10 to 20 employees to manage the euthanasia process. The facility usually has more than 2,000 workers processing 20,000 hogs per day.
“While our focus is on getting the Worthington facility back to work on behalf of our team members producing food for the nation, we believe we have a responsibility to step up when our producer partners are in need,” said Bob Krebs, president of JBS USA Pork.
“None of us want to euthanize hogs, but our producers are facing a terrible, unprecedented situation,” he continued. “We will do everything in our power to work with the state of Minnesota to responsibly reopen our facility as soon as possible in support of producers who desperately require a more viable option for their hogs.”
Earlier this week, President Donald Trump issued an executive order, citing the Defense Production Act, to keep meat processing plants open to hold off possible shortages of beef, pork, chicken and other meats.