On May 5, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue sent two letters to Governors [pdf] across the United States and leadership of major meat processing companies [pdf]. These letters establish the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) clear expectations for the implementation of President Donald Trump’s executive order signed last week. The order directs plants to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidance specific to the meat processing industry to keep these critical facilities open while maintaining worker safety.

In the letter to meat processing companies, Perdue urged any plants “contemplating reductions of operations or recently closed since Friday, May 1, and without a clear timetable for near term resumption of operations,” to submit written documentation of their operations and health and safety protocol developed based on the CDC/OSHA guidance to the USDA. “Plants should resume operations as soon as they are able after implementing the CDC/OSHA guidance for the protection of workers,” wrote Perdue in the letter. “USDA will continue to work with plants, the CDC, OSHA, and state, tribal, and local officials to ensure facilities are implementing practices consistent with the guidance to keep employees safe and continue operations.”

“USDA expects state and local officials to work with these critical meat processing facilities to maintain operational status while protecting the health of their employees,” said Perdue in a press release. “Meat processing facilities are critical infrastructure and are essential to the national security of our nation. Keeping these facilities operational is critical to the food supply chain, and we expect our partners across the country to work with us on this issue.”

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