President Donald Trump’s executive order this week requiring American meatpacking plants to stay open during the coronavirus pandemic is raising new questions about massive U.S. meat exports, particularly the export of pork to China.
Trump’s order was meant to prevent what meat processors have claimed is an imminent breakdown in the nation’s food supply chain, resulting from the closure of several major meat processing plants that had become hotbeds for coronavirus infections. The president invoked the Defense Production Act, a law intended for wartime usage, to designate the meatpacking industry as part of the nation’s “critical infrastructure.”
Since it was signed late Tuesday, the order has drawn outcry from workers rights activists and effusive praise from the meat industry. Unions said it gave plant owners a green light to ignore worker safety if it interferes with a plant’s ability to stay open and avoid liability if workers get sick or die.