Restructuring America’s Meat Industry for Worker and Consumer Safety and Farmer Prosperity
May 1, 2020
President Donald Trump on Tuesday used the Defense Production Act to declare meatpacking plants to be essential facilities and allowed the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to reopen plants shuttered due to outbreaks of COVID-19 among workers. The Open Markets Institute, Food & Water Action, and Family Farm Action Alliance, joined by the undersigned, share the president’s desire to ensure a robust supply of food to every American family. Unfortunately, we believe this order is the wrong way to do so. Most immediately, it does not provide sufficient protection for the workers risking their lives to keep plants operating. More fundamentally, it does nothing to address the underlying structure of the meat industry that created this public health and food security crisis in the first place. Decades of industry consolidation created a meat production system that was built to break. To truly protect consumers, workers, farmers, and the public, we call for the administration and law enforcement agencies to use existing anti-monopoly authority to restructure this industry in ways that radically and greatly reduce the concentration of risk in any one facility.