Top pork producer shutting SD plant indefinitely amid pandemic
A top pork producer in the country is shutting down its South Dakota plant indefinitely because of the pandemic, the company announced Sunday.
Smithfield Foods is shutting down its Sioux Falls, S.D. facility, one of the largest pork processing facilities in the country, “until further notice.” The plant processes four to five percent of pork in the U.S., amounting to about 130 million servings per week.
“Smithfield will resume operations in Sioux Falls once further direction is received from local, state and federal officials,” the company said in a press release.
Smithfield Food announced it would compensate its 3,700 employees from the plant for two weeks, and “hopes to keep them from joining the ranks of the tens of millions of unemployed Americans across the country.”
Smithfield President and CEO Kenneth M. Sullivan said in a statement that the closure of this and other protein plants is “pushing our country perilously close to the edge in terms of our meat supply.”
“It is impossible to keep our grocery stores stocked if our plants are not running,” he said. “These facility closures will also have severe, perhaps disastrous, repercussions for many in the supply chain, first and foremost our nation’s livestock farmers.”
More than 550 family farmers give animals to the closing plant, according to the press release.
Sullivan added that “numerous” agriculture and food plants have had employees who tested positive with COVID-19.
“We have continued to run our facilities for one reason: to sustain our nation’s food supply during this pandemic,” he said. “We believe it is our obligation to help feed the country, now more than ever. We have a stark choice as a nation: we are either going to produce food or not, even in the face of COVID-19.”
It’s unclear whether the closure has to do with an employee infection. But the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has maintained that there is no evidence that the virus can spread through food or food packaging.
The company had initially planned to shut down for just three days, but Gov. Kristi NoemKristi Lynn NoemSeveral states have yet to issue stay-at-home orders Coronavirus testing faces new challenge as key supplies run low The Hill’s Morning Report — ,000,000,000,000: GOP unveils historic US rescue effort MORE (R) requested it be extended to at least 14 days, she said in a tweet.
The situation at Smithfield is a challenging one. They’ve self-imposed a 3-day shutdown of the plant. And while I applaud them for that, more decisive action is needed.
That’s why we’ve asked Smithfield to close the plant for two full weeks. (7/8)
— Governor Kristi Noem (@govkristinoem) April 12, 2020
Several workers in essential industries, including the meat-packing industry, have staged protests about the dangers of working in close proximity to other employees during the pandemic.