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Agriculture secretary expects meatpacking plants to fully reopen within 10 days

Agriculture secretary expects meatpacking plants to fully reopen within 10 days
© Bonnie Cash

Agriculture Secretary Sonny PerdueGeorge (Sonny) Ervin PerdueTrump administration races to finish environmental rules, actions OVERNIGHT 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 MORE on Wednesday said U.S. meatpacking plants will fully reopen in the next seven to 10 days after coronavirus outbreaks sparked closures and led to shortages at grocery stores and fast food chains.

“I’d say probably a week to 10 days where it’s fully back up,” Perdue said when asked by President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rages against '60 Minutes' for interview with Krebs Cornyn spox: Neera Tanden has 'no chance' of being confirmed as Biden's OMB pick Pa. lawmaker was informed of positive coronavirus test while meeting with Trump: report MORE about timing during a meeting at the White House with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R).

“I think we’ve turned a corner," Perdue added. "We see these plants coming back online. Obviously because of some infected employees, they won’t be full force for a while. But we think the stores will be, you’ll see more variety and more meat cases fully supplied.”

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Perdue said on Thursday that meat processing facilities would be reopening in a matter of “days not weeks.” Those remarks came two days after Trump signed an executive order compelling meat processing facilities to remain open during the pandemic.

Reynolds said Wednesday that the executive order “has really maybe prevented what could have been a really serious situation.”

“Perry came back up at 60 percent capacity which is really, that’s a strong startup,” she said, referring a plant in Perry, Iowa.

That plant, a Tyson Foods meat factory, had 700 employees test positive for coronavirus, more than 50 percent of its workforce.

Other plants in Iowa have been closed due to infections. Tyson Foods said it will resume limited production on Thursday at its largest pork plant in Waterloo, Iowa, after it closed due to absent workers.

“We’ll have most of our facilities up and going. So as we continue to keep them up and processing and bring more back online … we’re going to hopefully prevent what could have been a really sorry situation,” Reynolds said. “This is critical infrastructure. It’s an essential workforce.”