In a White House meeting May 6 with Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, President Trump confirmed that he has asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate beef market dynamics in the wake of COVID-19.
According to a transcript of the meeting and press conferences with Reynolds, Vice President Pence and Ag Secretary Perdue, Trump said, “I will ask them [DOJ] to take a very serious look into it, because it shouldn’t be happening that way. And we want to protect our farmers. But they’re looking into that very strongly.”
Trump’s commitment to an investigation comes on the heels of a letter that 11 state attorneys general sent to DOJ requesting an investigation into cattle and beef prices. So far, there has been no indication from DOJ as to the status of an investigation.
In response to a question of worker safety at packing plants, Pence said, “Well, what we’ve looked at in each of these plants is, when we have an outbreak, the CDC deploys a team on the ground. We also worked with the [Iowa] governor and other governors around the country to deploy personal protective equipment to allow the workforce to safely return once testing is done.
“In most of these meat-processing plants, we end up testing everyone in the facility. And the people that are healthy are able to return with new countermeasures and new protection, new face masks or gloves, as the case may be.”
According to Reynolds, part of the worker protection efforts in packing plants are plexiglass shields between each employee. “And so, with the testing, with the PPE, with the restructuring in the facilities, they’re also doing a lot of that as well to try to social distance where they can, to put in shields where they can, to look at the lines, to separate the shifts.”