President Donald Trump Tuesday announced an executive order to keep meatpacking plants open during the COVID-19 pandemic. The President will use the Defense Production Act to order companies to stay open as critical infrastructure, as meatpacking plants over the past couple of weeks closed with spikes in coronavirus cases among employees.
The plan allows the federal government to supply additional personal protective equipment to meat processing facilities, according to Bloomberg News. The supply chain slowdown presents dire factors for farmers, with poultry and pork producers left with no alternative other than euthanizing animals.
The order will affect processing plants for beef, chicken, eggs and pork. Republican U.S. Senators from Iowa, Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, this week, urged the administration to invoke the Defense Production Act. The Senators asked for assistance for processing plants, assistance for euthanizing animals, indemnity payments for depopulation costs and mental health assistance for all affected.
Lincoln Premium Poultry announced their first case of COVID-19 today.
“The employee worked in what we refer to as the ‘2nd processing’ part of the building and was on 2nd shift, which runs in the evening and has fewer employees at this time. The person did not engage with many employees the last day they were in our facility, which was last Wednesday, April 8. We have arranged a deep clean of all areas of our facility and work will continue as scheduled.” said Jessica Kolterman, Director of Corporate and External Affairs.
KTIC’s Chad Moyer spoke with Kolterman over the phone and she says Lincoln Premium Poultry had previously started precautionary efforts to limited visitors to the facility, and implemented additional cleaning measures including disinfecting door knobs, timeclocks, and other high traffic areas. She says they also significantly increased the employee break areas to encourage social distancing, and is taking the temperature of everyone entering their facilities. Kolterman says the company has provided masks for employees, and about half have chosen to use the masks. This virus is not foodborne and cannot be transmitted through food or potable water.
“Our thoughts are with our employee as they go through this, and we wish them a speedy recovery. They are self-isolating at home with pay. The two team members who were potentially exposed are also self-isolating at home with pay. We are very proud of our employees who are working on the front lines of this virus each day to keep food on the table for American families and will continue to do everything we can to protect them.” said Kolterman.
Kolterman says the company is in the midst of a ramp up in production on the 2nd shift. Right now, she says one production line is running during that shift, and she expects the 2nd shift will be at full production with three lines running by the end of this summer. Because of that plan, Kolterman does not expect there to be any disruptions to the farmers currently raising chickens for the plant.
Lincoln Premium Poultry was founded in 2016 in Fremont, Nebraska and began operations on September 9, 2019.