Smithfield phasing in opening of Sioux Falls pork plant
Smithfield Foods, Inc. announced that it will begin resuming operations in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, after receiving positive confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and USDA that the company is in full compliance with all CDC and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidance. The company will take a phased approach to resuming its operations. The harvest floor will reopen on May 11, 2020, and the company anticipates that the facility will be fully operational by late May. Testing, which is being administered by the state of South Dakota, is available to all Smithfield employees prior to returning to work. To date, over 2,000 employees have been tested. More tests will be conducted in the coming weeks as the company slowly ramps up its operations.
The Sioux Falls facility, which has been closed for more than three weeks, is one of the largest pork processing facilities in the country, 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. The reopening of the facility after the activation of the Defense Production Act last week helps safeguard the country’s food supply that provides sustenance to hundreds of millions of Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic. It also protects the livelihoods of millions of American family farmers who produce bountiful livestock supplies but rely on meat processing facilities to convert that abundance into food.
“President Trump took decisive action last week to ensure America’s food supply remained stable,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said. “These meat processing facilities implemented CDC and OSHA guidance quickly and effectively, providing uniform health and safety standards so their employees know they are operating in a safe environment. I want to thank these patriotic meat processing facility workers who are returning to work to make sure that America’s producers and ranchers can bring their products to market and the American people can have food to eat.”
“The Smithfield reopening is welcome news for South Dakota’s pig farmers,” said Glenn Muller, executive director of the South Dakota Pork Producers. “As employees return to the plant tomorrow, we want them to know how much we appreciate and value the role they play in helping our state’s pig farmers meet consumer demand for pork. This is a significant and important step forward in normalizing our food supply chain.”
“I toured the plant with our Joint Union Management Safety Committee and was impressed with the measures put in place to protect employees. Smithfield is doing everything they can for the employees and their safety. We stand with Smithfield to get this plant back open,” said BJ Motley, president, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 304A.
At the core of the reopening plan is the company’s ongoing focus on employee health and safety and continued adherence with – at a minimum – CDC and OSHA guidance. Across all its facilities, the company is providing its team members with personal protective equipment (PPE), including masks and face shields, has implemented mass thermal scanning, and installed physical barriers on its production floors and in break areas. These measures remain mandatory and nonnegotiable conditions for the company to operate. Photos of the company’s protective measures are available here.