Smithfield head: Pork plant closure raises food supply questions
While Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has said that the nation’s food supply is secure, Kenneth Sullivan, president and CEO of Smithfield Foods, said the indefinite closure of its plant in Sioux Falls, S.D., raises questions.
Smithfield closed its plant after close to 300 workers tested positive for the coronavirus.
“The closure of this facility, combined with a growing list of other protein plants that have shuttered across our industry, is pushing our country perilously close to the edge in terms of our meat supply,” Sullivan said in a news release.
“It is impossible to keep our grocery stores stocked if our plants are not running. These facility closures will also have severe, perhaps disastrous, repercussions for many in the supply chain, first and foremost our nation’s livestock farmers. These farmers have nowhere to send their animals.”
“Unfortunately, COVID-19 cases are now ubiquitous across our country. The virus is afflicting communities everywhere. The agriculture and food sectors have not been immune. Numerous plants across the country have COVID-19 positive employees. We have continued to run our facilities for one reason: to sustain our nation’s food supply during this pandemic.”
“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,” Sullivan concluded.
Sullivan noted that the Sioux Falls plant is one of the largest pork processing facilities in the U.S., representing 4 to 5% of U.S. pork production. It supplies nearly 130 million servings of food per week, or about 18 million servings per day, and employs 3,700 people. More than 550 independent family farmers supply the plant.
According to a Reuters report, the company will pay its 3,700 employees for two weeks and wait for direction from the local, state and federal government.