This week saw federal agencies and the Trump Administration enact several new measures emphasizing the need to protect our nation’s meat and poultry processors in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. On Monday (4/27), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released interim guidance for workers and employers in the meat and poultry industry advising them on how to put effective safety plans in place inside their plants. Then, on Tuesday (4/28), President Trump followed those guidelines with a new Executive Order compelling meat processors, under the authority of the Defense Production Act (DPA), to continue filling orders amid the pandemic.
Taken together, these actions by the federal government make it clear that our nation’s meat and poultry processors can and should remain in operation to ensure an adequate supply of protein for all Americans. Unfortunately, they also come at a time when the meat processing industry – which at the start of the year had generally been exceeding production levels over recent years – is seeing unprecedented drops in production due to COVID-19.
Here in North Carolina, a state with just over 3 percent of the nation’s population but which accounts for 10.8 percent of the national value of pork and poultry production, these trends have hit especially hard. Agribusiness has long been an essential industry for our economy, and with COVID-19 threatening food shortages nationally, the need to ensure the continued operations of our pork and poultry processors has never been more important.
The NC Chamber is tracking these trends and engaging with processors across our state to ensure we understand their needs and can communicate those needs to officials addressing our state’s COVID-19 response. In the coming weeks and months, as North Carolina’s leaders work together to develop a roadmap for reopening, we will continue to put the needs of this vital industry front and center.