Meatpacking plants in the spotlight at House hearing

Meatpacking, poultry, and agricultural workers have faced "devastating" conditions during the pandemic, in part due to employers' and federal regulators' lax approach to worker safety, argued advocates during a hearing before a House Appropriations Subcommittee on Tuesday. The hearing comes as food system workers are becoming eligible to receive the Covid-19 vaccine in many states, but new outbreaks and cases of the virus continue to emerge in these crowded workplaces across the country. No paywall

Frigid weather hits meat plants, ports, citrus, and livestock

Snow and bitter cold damaged the citrus crop in Texas, slowed meat production in the Plains, and threatened to snarl grain exports through the Gulf of Mexico. Some traders have claimed force majeure because of ice and cold weather in Houston and New Orleans, reported AgriCensus

USDA should push for rural broadband, worker safety, say former ag secretaries

While the pandemic and climate change will be at the top of the agenda in the Biden administration, the USDA should pursue full access to broadband service in rural America, said three former agriculture secretaries on Tuesday. One of them, Mike Espy, also said the USDA should refuse to buy products from meat processors who fail to protect workers from the coronavirus.

Meat plants tied to 6-8 percent of early Covid-19 cases

Livestock processing plants "may act as transmission vectors" for spreading the coronavirus, said researchers who estimated the plants were associated with from 6 to 8 percent of Covid-19 cases nationwide during the early months of the pandemic. "Ensuring both public health and robust essential supply chains may require an increase in meatpacking oversight and potentially a shift toward more decentralized, smaller-scale meat production," said the researchers in a paper appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Cattle group proposes more transparency in market prices

As an antidote for the dwindling cash market, the largest U.S. cattle group circulated a plan on Tuesday for meatpackers to voluntarily buy cattle on the spot market to assure fair and open prices, with the threat of mandatory disclosure if the systems fails. The so-called 75 percent plan by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association stood as an alternative to bills in Congress to require packers to buy as many as half of their slaughter cattle for cash.

Public health experts warn of possible Covid-19 resurgence at food plants this fall

Public health experts are concerned about a possible resurgence of Covid-19 in food production plants this fall, Leah Douglas reports in FERN’s latest story. They say more comprehensive testing, physical distancing, and better data reporting are essential to keeping the virus in check, even as …

States are rolling back recent transparency measures in how they report meatpacking plant outbreaks

Several states introduced more rigorous public reporting of Covid-19 outbreaks and cases in the agriculture sector this summer after calls from advocates and the media for more transparency. But several of those efforts have been stalled, rolled back, or rely on outdated information, which public health experts and labor advocates say hinders communities’ and workers’ ability to curtail the spread of the virus.

Meatpackers ignored warnings to plan for a pandemic, report finds

Experts and federal agencies repeatedly urged meatpackers to prepare for a potential future pandemic as far back as the Bush administration, yet none of the major packers had stocked personal protective equipment or trained personnel on pandemic response before the novel coronavirus began to spread in 2020, an investigation from ProPublica found.

Meatpackers skeptical of broader disclosure of cattle prices and purchases

Noting complaints about dwindling competition, the USDA listed several ways to improve price transparency in the cattle market on Wednesday and offered to assist stakeholders and policymakers in exploring options to assure fair prices and level the playing field between producers and processors.