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Trump uses Defense Production Act to order meat processing plants to stay open

President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden to nominate Linda Thomas-Greenfield for UN ambassador: reports Scranton dedicates 'Joe Biden Way' to honor president-elect Kasich: Republicans 'either in complete lockstep' or 'afraid' of Trump MORE signed an executive order on Tuesday evening, using the Defense Production Act (DPA) to order meat processing plants to stay open and designating them as critical infrastructure. 

The order will apply to all meat processing plants in the U.S. in an effort to prevent further disruptions to the food supply. Trump signaled he would sign this order earlier on Tuesday following estimates that meat production capacity nationwide could be reduced by as much as 80 percent.

“It is important that processors of beef, pork, and poultry ("meat and poultry") in the food supply chain continue operating and fulfilling orders to ensure a continued supply of protein for Americans.  However, outbreaks of COVID-19 among workers at some processing facilities have led to the reduction in some of those facilities' production capacity,” the president wrote in the order.

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He said that actions in the states have led to closures of processing plants but those closures threaten the supply chain. Trump’s decision comes after the chairman of Tyson Foods warned that the nation’s food supply was “breaking” as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

“Given the high volume of meat and poultry processed by many facilities, any unnecessary closures can quickly have a large effect on the food supply chain,” Trump wrote. 

The order delegates the Agriculture Secretary Sonny PerdueGeorge (Sonny) Ervin PerdueOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee | Forest Service finalizes rule weakening environmental review of its projects | Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight Forest Service finalizes rule weakening environmental review of its projects Federal judge strikes down Trump's cuts on food stamps for unemployed MORE to take actions to ensure that meat and poultry processors continue operations.

Trump told reporters in the Oval Office on Tuesday that he planned to sign this order to address “liability problems” related to the food supply chain and specifically mentioned Tyson Foods. 

Tyson Foods has closed a pork processing plant in Columbus Junction, Iowa, after two people died and at least 148 workers tested positive, as well as a pork processing plant in Waterloo, Iowa, because too many workers have been absent.

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Other food processing companies have also closed plants.

A JBS beef production facility temporarily closed after it was the center of a coronavirus outbreak in Green Bay, Wis., on Sunday, which was the fourth JBS plant to close during the pandemic.

Smithfield has closed three pork processing plants in Missouri, Wisconsin and South Dakota, where one employee died and 518 employees are infected. The company said the Missouri and Wisconsin plants each had a small number of employees who tested positive.

Trump first used the Defense Production Act (DPA), a law that gives the president broad authority to increase the manufacturing output of critical items in a national emergency, in March to order General Motors to ramp up production of life-saving ventilators.