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Ernst Urges Administration to Ensure Safety, Security of Food Supply Chain

In a letter to the vice president, the Iowa senator is outlining the impact COVID-19 is having on the food supply chain and the stress it’s putting on Iowa’s pork industry

RED OAK, Iowa – Following recent reports of the spread of COVID-19 at meat packing plants and facilities across Iowa and the Midwest, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), chairman of the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Rural Development and Energy, is calling on the administration to ensure the U.S. maintains a strong, secure food supply chain.   

In a letter to Vice President Mike Pence, the head of the White House coronavirus task force, Ernst writes: “While every sector has been greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, developments in the last week have dramatically changed the condition of our food supply chain. In Iowa alone, there have been several major packing plant closures due to their hardworking employees being infected by COVID-19. These companies have been faced with the difficult task of temporarily closing their facilities and protecting the health of their employees. Packing plants and the entire agriculture industry have long faced labor challenges, and COVID-19 related plant shutdowns and rising worker absenteeism has intensified these issues.

Ernst goes on to say: “When a packing plant closes, it sends ripple effects through the supply chain. In the case of Iowa’s pork industry, there is a constant supply of pigs working their way up the chain. If the packing plant is no longer open for slaughter, farmers have to hold on to those pigs for longer, which means the pigs are putting on extra weight, and new piglets have no place to go…On the other end of the supply chain, when a packing plant closes, it means less meat going towards our grocery store shelves.

Read the full letter HERE


Ernst also joined a bipartisan, bicameral letter urging U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue to take immediate action to assist pork producers and maintain the pork food supply chain. The letter followed the death of two Iowans and closure of the Tyson processing facility in Columbus Junction, Iowa. In the letter, Ernst requested that Natural Resource Conservation Service consider how to provide financial and technical assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program for affected producers, if needed. Full text of the letter can be found HERE.