Secretary Perdue responds to Nebraska mayor's meat packing facility concerns

USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue responds to Grand Island Mayor Roger Steele's concerns for worker...
USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue responds to Grand Island Mayor Roger Steele's concerns for worker safety at the local JBS meat processing plant.(GRAYDC)
Published: May. 7, 2020 at 4:02 PM CDT
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Balancing worker safety and operation is a task plaguing the meat packing industry during the coronavirus crisis.

Last week, President Trump signed an executive order to order meat processing plants to stay open amid concerns over growing coronavirus cases and the impact on the nation’s food supply.

In a briefing Thursday, Grand Island, Nebraska Mayor Roger Steele outlined some of his lingering concerns as hundreds of cases have been tied to the local JBS plant.

“It is only fair that the USDA take responsibility for the safety of meat packing employees because these plants are operated by order of the President,” said Steele.

Last week, Mayor Steele sent a letter to the USDA calling on the government to provide testing to JBS employees. Mayor Steele has not yet received a written response from Secretary Perdue. In an interview Thursday, Gray Television asked Secretary Perdue about the letter.

Perdue pointed to guidelines outlined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that encourage workplace safety procedures, like creating physical barriers and employee screening.

“That’s not USDA standards,” said Perdue. “Those are the CDC and OSHA standards, that’s what the executive order charged us to go by.”

Although Perdue says tests are being provided to employees, it is unclear how and when those resources will be available.

“Actually, testing is being provided in many places in that regard,” said Perdue. “I will be happy to communicate with the Mayor when I see his letter.”

In Thursday’s briefing, Mayor Steele said he wants the JBS plant to remain open and his invitation for Secretary Perdue to visit Grand Island still stands.

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