04.27.20

Rounds Urges Administration to Take Additional Steps to Address Food Production Crisis

In addition to asking the administration to provide assistance to producers, Rounds calls for the food supply industry to be declared an essential industry by invoking the Defense Production Act

PIERRE—U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) today wrote to President Trump to urge the administration to take additional steps to address the food production crisis. Yesterday, Rounds sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence calling for the administration to develop a plan that simultaneously protects food workers and public health, as well as addresses the nation’s on-farm and on-ranch livestock emergency. In his letter today, Rounds urged the administration to invoke the Defense Production Act, which will help keep food production plants open safely.

“The Defense Production Act (DPA) is intended to make certain that the nation has an adequate supply of essential goods necessary to respond to a national emergency,” wrote Rounds in the letter. “One would be hard-pressed to think of a more essential good than food during this time of a national emergency. Invoking the DPA would allow additional federal resources to ramp up production of critical food manufacturing facilities during this idle period. Federal assistance, through the DPA, would also provide much-needed direct assistance to the line workers who need and want to get back to work. As more people will come back to work, we must make them confident their health and safety is being prioritized.”

Full text of the letter:

Dear President Trump,

The COVID-19 pandemic has placed a stranglehold on our nation’s health and food supply. The food industry is on the brink of a major supply chain collapse that has real potential to create actual food shortages for all Americans. As of Friday, April 24, 2020, roughly 25 percent of our nation’s beef packing capacity and 30 percent of our nation’s pork packing capacity were not producing meat, and this number is only getting worse with each passing day. We have seen stories of milk being dumped down drains and produce rotting in the fields, but the story is about to become much worse. Livestock producers who spend their lives growing animals to feed others are now facing the unthinkable: having to destroy the animals they have raised due to this broken link in our food supply chain. We must act swiftly to avoid further collapse and to secure our nation.

In the face of this disaster, I write to encourage you to take the following action on behalf of our nation;

Invoke the Defense Production Act (DPA) to secure a stable and safe food supply chain. The DPA is intended to make certain that the nation has an adequate supply of essential goods necessary to respond to a national emergency. One would be hard-pressed to think of a more essential good than food during this time of a national emergency. Invoking the DPA would allow additional federal resources to ramp up production of critical food manufacturing facilities during this idle period. Federal assistance, through the DPA, would also provide much-needed direct assistance to the line workers who need and want to get back to work. As more people will come back to work, we must make them confident their health and safety is being prioritized.

Declare a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) disaster event in response to the livestock euthanasia crisis. Federal resources are direly needed to make certain producers, packers and states have uniform guidance during this unfortunate and unavoidable undertaking. I believe the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety Inspection Service all have a role to play in contributing to the creation of an incident command center. The command center would need to work with the all state emergency operation centers to uniformly manage this issue.  No farm or ranch is the same and no food processing facility is the same. This guidance needs to be science-based, practical, flexible and applied consistently.

Mr. President, as our nation’s Commander-in-Chief, you are in the most unique position to organize and execute these necessary actions. Invoking the DPA and declaring a federal disaster event are necessary  actions to strengthen our food supply chain during this time of a national emergency, and more importantly, to deliver essential food to all Americans. We are only as strong as our weakest link. Thank you for your leadership during these unprecedented times.

Sincerely,

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