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.

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 …