Senate committee approves two livestock marketing reform bills
The Senate Agriculture Committee quickly approved legislation on Wednesday that would require meatpackers to buy a portion of their slaughter cattle on the cash market — a step intended to ensure fair prices — and create a USDA special investigator to enforce fair-play rules in the highly concentrated meat industry.
House votes to create USDA meat investigator
Over the objections of Republicans, the House passed legislation on Thursday to create a USDA special investigator to enforce fair-play rules in the highly concentrated meatpacking industry. It was the most significant livestock marketing reform to advance in Congress this session.
House Republicans oppose USDA meat investigator as poison pill
The House will vote as early as Tuesday on legislation to create a USDA special investigator to enforce fair-play laws in the meat industry despite last-ditch Republican efforts to quash the proposal. The White House announced its support on Monday for the package, which would also allow …
House Democrats unveil ‘lower food and fuel costs’ bill
The House could vote as early as next week on an omnibus bill that would allow summertime sale of E15, create a special investigator’s office at the USDA to enforce fair-play laws in meatpacking, and help farmers adopt so-called precision agriculture technology.
Meatpackers drafted Trump order on meat plants during Covid-19
Facing pressure from local health officials over conditions in their plants, meatpacking companies "drafted and pitched an executive order to the Trump White House" to keep slaughterhouses open during the first months of the Covid-19 pandemic, said a congressional staff report on Thursday. When President Trump issued an order that adopted the industry position, meatpackers exaggerated its scope.
Study: Public had fewer fears than leaders did of meat shortages
In April 2020, when outbreaks of Covid-19 among slaughterhouse workers slowed U.S. meat production, the chairman of Tyson Foods said in full-page advertisements, "The supply chain is breaking." Two days later, President Trump signed an executive order to keep processing plants open during the pandemic. In retrospect, the meat supply chain was strained, but not broken, and production recovered quickly, said a team of economists in the journal Meat Science.
Cattle market reformers see resistance from big ag groups
A band of senators from the Midwest and northern Plains, with the best chance in years to inject transparency into the consolidated cattle market, pressed on Tuesday for a federal mandate for meatpackers to buy more cattle for cash, rather than through obscure formulas. "We need some sunlight," said Montana Sen. Jon Tester.
Senate bill requires packers to buy some cattle for cash
Meatpackers would be required to buy a portion of their slaughter cattle on the spot market or risk a $90,000 fine under legislation outlined by four senators on Monday. The bill, intended to increase market transparency, also would create a contract library that discloses the terms the packers offer for cattle, so producers would know if a fair price is being offered.
Two new USDA reports to put more details into cattle prices
The USDA will launch two new cattle pricing reports next week that "will bring needed clarity to the marketplace," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Thursday. The reports, which will provide more information on prices for cattle sold through the major channels, were greeted as a significant step toward transparency in an often-opaque market.
Tyson Foods sets Covid-19 vaccination deadline
The largest U.S. meat processor, Tyson Foods, said on Tuesday that all of its 139,000 employees must be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus by Nov. 1, with a proposed $200 "thank you" for to frontline workers for compliance. "We do not take this decision lightly," said chief executive Donnie King in a memo. "We have spent months encouraging our team members to get vaccinated – today under half of our team members are."
Trump administration tried to influence state responses to meatpacking plant outbreaks, documents reveal
Top staff at the Department of Agriculture, including former agriculture secretary Sonny Perdue, and at the Vice President’s office sought to influence how states responded to early outbreaks of Covid-19 in meatpacking plants last spring, a trove of documents reveals.(No paywall)
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 …
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)
Biden delay on new workplace Covid-19 standards concerns food worker advocates
In the early days of his administration, President Biden directed the nation’s workplace safety regulator to explore enforceable Covid-19 standards to better protect workers from the threat of the coronavirus. But months later, the new standards have not been issued, worrying advocates concerned about the health of vulnerable workers.
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.
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 …