House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson issued a statement supporting efforts to create local task forces to provide a framework to safely and efficiently reopen meatpacking facilities in a way that protects worker health and safety and begins to reduce the backup of hogs for processing in Minnesota and nationwide. Governor Tim Walz of Minnesota is convening such a task force to determine what steps are necessary to keep workers safe and get plants like JBS Worthington back on-line. As part of this effort, the Governor’s office will work with representatives from the JBS facility in Worthington, local leaders from the United Food and Commercial Workers union, the Minnesota Department of Health, and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.
“Workers need to feel confident they can remain healthy and safe at work; farmers need plants like JBS Worthington up and running to keep hogs moving through the supply chain; and consumers need and want meat on the shelves in the grocery store. Those things can’t happen without one another, so the efforts by JBS, by the UFCW, and by the state to come together and talk this through will help us get there.
“First, we’ve got to have testing done broadly enough to know exactly the scale of the infections. Second, workers need masks, faceshields and other PPE, as well as a plan that keeps them a safe distance apart from each other. Our USDA meat inspectors need to be provided with the PPEs necessary to keep them safe and healthy as well. Finally, the plants need to run at a scale and a speed that accounts for the reduced workforce levels we’ll have as we get started. Only after workers are confident those needs are met can plants reopen safely.
“JBS, UFCW and the state are all committed to working through these steps together to get back on-line as soon as possible, which will begin to help clear the backup of hogs and make sure our grocery shelves are stocked. I hope that other plants, unions, and states can use the task force and its plan as a model to keep their employees safe and get their plants back up and running too.”