Smithfield exaggerated meat-supply risk of pandemic, says lawsuit

Pork processor Smithfield Foods fanned fears of a meat shortage during the pandemic and failed to adequately protect its workers from Covid-19 while fattening its profits, charged the consumer group Food & Water Watch in a lawsuit. Filed under the District of Columbia’s consumer protection …

USDA to implement up to $4 billion in pandemic aid through mid-August

Biofuel producers, dairy farmers and meat processors will receive a major portion of up to $4 billion in coronavirus aid programs that will be implemented over the next 60 days, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said on Tuesday. He also said the USDA will take "a pretty unique approach," which could include a revolving loan program, to help small meat packers go into business or expand.

After months of waiting, labor advocates disappointed new OSHA rule excludes food system workers

After months of delay, the Biden administration on Thursday released a rule dictating how employers in the healthcare sector should protect workers from the spread of Covid-19. The exclusion of meatpacking, food processing, farm, and grocery retail workers from the new workplace standards sparked an outcry from worker advocacy groups and unions.(No paywall)

Vilsack aims for ‘transformational change’ in strengthening U.S. food system

The Biden administration earmarked $4 billion on Tuesday to strengthen the U.S. food system, including an expansion of local and regional food processing capacity. Aiming to increase competition, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said he hoped to see "new entries" in the highly concentrated processing sector.

In Texas, a rare workers’ comp win against meatpacker JBS

A former meatpacking worker in Texas won what appears to be the first workers' compensation settlement for contracting Covid-19 at a meat processing facility. Experts say the ruling bodes well for scores of other meat plant workers who are pursuing, or may pursue, workers' comp benefits for contracting the virus. (No paywall)

Stronger protections needed for farmworkers as pandemic stretches into second year, argue researchers

Farmworkers face serious occupational risks that the pandemic has only exacerbated, and better policies are needed to protect them from exposure to heat, chemicals, and Covid-19, say two new related reports on social and health conditions in the sector.

‘Put kids first,’ say advocates in call for universal free school meals

On the heels of new legislation that would provide free school meals to all American children, advocates from the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), American Academy of Pediatrics and American Federation of Teachers doubled down on the urgent need for action amid persistent childhood hunger and an escalating obesity crisis.(No paywall)

Biden seeks full-scale summer food program for children

Building on P-EBT benefits created in response to the coronavirus, President Biden proposed a vast expansion of the USDA's summer food program on Wednesday that would be available to the 22 million children who eat school meals for free or at a reduced price. The White House also called for expanding a program that provides free school meals to all children in high-poverty neighborhoods.

For thousands of farmworkers, a dangerous — and now potentially deadly — commute

It’s 1 a.m. and the stars are out as hundreds of people shuffle slowly along the wall that forms the border with the U.S. in the small Mexican city of San Luis Río Colorado, Esther Honig reports in FERN's latest story produced with the Nation magazine. In heavy boots and wide-brimmed straw hats, almost everyone here is headed to work in the vegetable fields of Yuma County, Arizona. Bundled against the frigid November air in puffy coats and fleece blankets, they carry thermoses of hot coffee and mini coolers packed with breakfast and lunch, often small, tightly rolled meat burritos. The wait to get through the small port of entry averages two hours but on some days can take as many as four. (No paywall)