Trump made his comments in a press appearance alongside USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds.

Cooper david
Managing Editor / Progressive Cattle

“I’ve asked the Justice Department to look into it,” Trump said, according to Reuters news service. “I’ve asked them to take a very serious look into it because it shouldn’t be happening that way, and we want to protect our farmers.

“Are they dealing with each other? What’s going on?” Trump asked.

The announcement came more than a week after Trump issued meat slaughter facilities to remain open as critical infrastructure under the Defense Protection Act. With COVID-19 cases hitting packing houses, more than 20 facilities across the country closed for periods of time to adapt practices for worker safety and distancing.

Less capacity at processing facilities has reduced slaughter 38% from last year and tightened beef supply. Grocery stores are seeing less beef product in their display cases. Grocers such as Kroger, Costco, ShopRite and Albertsons are limiting how much fresh meat is for sale. And franchises such as Wendy’s have begun limiting or removing some burger items from menus. Cutout values kept skyrocketing in early May as grocers pay more for the limited beef; yet producers are seeing calves enter the supply chain at prices ranging from 21% to 30% less than a year ago and stirring complaints from producers against packing companies.


Perdue, in two letters sent May 6, instructed state governors and stakeholders in the meat industries to make all essential efforts to keep facilities operational.

“[The] 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,” Perdue wrote.

Perdue said the USDA, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are partnering for public health and worker safety issues. Perdue said plants contemplating reductions or closures must make a timetable for resumption of operations and health and safety protocols.

“Again, I exhort you to do this; further action under the executive order and the Defense Production Act is under consideration and will be taken if necessary,” Perdue wrote.

In his comments with the president’s press conference, Perdue said plants should be on the way to opening within 10 days.

“I think we’ve turned the corner,” Perdue said. “We’ll see them coming back on line. … I’d say, probably a week to 10 days we’ll be back up."  end mark

David Cooper