President Donald Trump will order meat-processing plants to remain open, declaring them critical infrastructure, as the coronavirus outbreak forces the plants to close and potentially jeopardize the U.S. food supply, a news report said Tuesday.
Trump intends to use the Defense Production Act to order the companies to stay open, and the government will provide additional protective gear for employees as well as guidance, Bloomberg reported, citing a person familiar with the matter.
On Tuesday Trump said he would issue an executive order that addresses Tyson Foods' (TSN) liability as the meatpacking company contends with coronavirus outbreaks at its facilities.
“There’s plenty of supply," Trump said when he was asked about the food supply.
Trump's order, however, will not be limited to Tyson, Bloomberg said, and will instead affect all processing plants supplying beef, chicken, eggs and pork.
The White House decided to make the move amid estimates that as much as 80% of the U.S. production capacity could shut down.
Outbreaks in the meat-processing industry and disappearance of demand as restaurants have closed have disrupted the food-supply chain.
Tyson Foods Chairman John Tyson said that millions of pigs, chickens and cattle will be euthanized because of slaughterhouse closures, which hurt supplies at grocers.
Tyson said, in a blog post and full-page advertisement published Sunday in The New York Times, The Washington Post and other outlets, that the food-supply chain is "breaking" and "vulnerable."
"In small communities around the country where we employ over 100,000 hard-working men and women, we’re being forced to shutter our doors," Tyson said.
"This means one thing – the food supply chain is vulnerable. As pork, beef and chicken plants are being forced to close, even for short periods of time, millions of pounds of meat will disappear from the supply chain."
Tyson Foods recently closed a meat processing plant in Pasco, Wash., which the company said produces enough beef in one day to feed 4 million people.
The company also closed two pork-processing plants, one in Iowa and one in Indiana, and a chicken-processing plant in Tennessee due to the coronavirus
The U.S. Department of Agriculture said late Friday it is establishing a National Incident Coordination Center to help farmers find markets for their livestock, or euthanize and dispose of animals if necessary.