JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri’s cattle-farmer-in-chief says he is all in on President Donald Trump’s decision to require meat processing plants to remain open during the ongoing pandemic.
Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican who raises cattle in pastures surrounding his home in Polk County, said he supports the idea of classifying those plants as essential infrastructure.
“We’ve got to keep the food chain going,” Parson told reporters at a briefing hours before Trump signed the executive order Tuesday evening.
Under the order, workers who process pork, beef and poultry will receive additional protective gear as well as guidance on how to avoid spreading the coronavirus.
Parson’s support for the order came four days after workers at a Smithfield Food plant in Milan filed a lawsuit claiming conditions at the plant are putting workers and the public at risk of contracting COVID-19.
The lawsuit alleges Smithfield has not provided workers with sufficient protective equipment and requires them to work shoulder to shoulder. It also contends that workers are discouraged from taking sick leave.
Smithfield has faced complaints about working conditions at other plants and closed a plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, after about 800 workers tested positive for the virus. Other large meat processing companies, such as Tyson Foods and JBS, have closed plants because of infections among workers.
Smithfield, based in Virginia, closed its plants in Martin City, Missouri, and Cudahy, Wisconsin, because they rely on raw materials from the South Dakota plant.
Industry leaders have warned that consumers could see meat shortages in a matter of days. Tyson, one of the world’s largest food companies, ran a full-page advertisement in The New York Times and other newspapers Sunday warning, “The food supply chain is breaking.”
Parson, a former lieutenant governor, senator, state representative and county sheriff, has a herd of about 100 cattle at his farm near Bolivar. While he is in Jefferson City, his son oversees the operation.
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