The temporary closing of meat-processing plants has raised concerns over food supplies during the pandemic. But in states like Iowa and South Dakota, they also renew demands for worker safety.
At least two plants in Iowa suspended operations after a number of employees tested positive for COVID-19, including a pair of deaths considered related to the pandemic.
Rafael Morataya, executive director of the Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa, says leaders of these states need to ensure that proper protection measures are being enforced.
The Smithfield Foods plant in South Dakota recently closed because of a large COVID-19 outbreak there. Morataya says many immigrants work at these plants. He believes it isn’t fair for them to decide either to keep working or risk exposure to the virus.
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds says more testing supplies are being sent to plants. The South Dakota plant was closed after the governor there made the request to the company. However, the two governors are being criticized for resisting “stay-at-home” orders, and are being called upon to provide more help for plant workers. Morataya says the concerns are nothing new.
Some companies acknowledge higher absence rates of employees worried about becoming infected. Tyson Foods says it’s taking workers’ temperature before they go into facilities and has implemented social-distancing measures.
That isn’t the only problem facing area hog production right now. Area hog producers are also feeling the pinch. Jim Boyer is a hog producer in nearby Emmet County and he knows the situation all too well.
May prices for Lean Hogs on Friday closed at $38.05 while the June contract closed at $43.60. Both of these were slight gains on the market for the day. However, before the pandemic broke out, prices were in the $65-69.00 range.
It isn’t just area small business that faces the threat of closure. Hog farmers are concerned for their future according to Boyer.
For now, producers are watching the markets and hog processing plants supply chains to try and get an upper edge on the situation.