Warren, Booker investigate coronavirus beef companies, Tyson’s concerns from China

Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) participate in the first night of the Democratic presidential debate on June 26, 2019 in Miami, Florida.

Joe Raedle | fake pictures

Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker said Tuesday they will open an investigation into Tyson Foods, JBS USA, Cargill and Smithfield Foods related to their handling of pork exports and worker safety during the coronavirus pandemic.

The move comes after reports that meat-packing companies were exporting a record amount of pork to China, while warning of impending meat shortages and rising prices in the United States.

The pig is an integral part of the trade agreement between the United States and China, which President Donald Trump has promoted as one of his main achievements. But while China buys some pork products and parts that Americans don’t consume, the decision to export in bulk to China comes when American workers got sick, or died, from the coronavirus in pork plants in the whole country.

In letters to the CEOs of Tyson, Cargill, JBS, and Smithfield Foods, Warren, of Massachusetts, and Booker, of New Jersey, they demanded information on how each company protects workers who have or can contract the coronavirus, and how much meat they export. to China.

“Their companies created the conditions that left their workers and the supply chain vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic, but instead of addressing them, they used the prospect of food shortages to secure a federal license to put their workers in danger “he added. ex-presidential candidates wrote.

Representatives for Tyson, JBS and Smithfield did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Cargill said he was still reviewing the letter.

In April, billionaire John Tyson, president of the country’s largest meat processor Tyson Foods, published a full-page ad in several of the country’s most-read newspapers warning “the food supply chain is breaking,” days before Trump issued an executive order requiring the plants to remain open. Their order came when an increasing number of workers reported having been infected with the virus, amid working conditions that required frequent close contact in tight spaces.

Still, a number of grocery stores told CNBC at the time that they had still seen signs of the shortage Tyson had warned about. A Kroger spokesperson said there was “plenty of protein in the supply chain,” while a spokesperson for Texas grocery store HEB said they were adding new limits to customers’ meat purchases after John’s announcement. Tyson, for fear of accumulation.

Those actions were cited by Booker and Warren.

“In April, as thousands of their workers fell ill due to their own inability or unwillingness to implement worker protections, their companies warned that the ‘country [was] dangerously close to the limit in terms of our meat supply ‘and that’ the food supply chain is breaking ‘, while publicly putting pressure on federal, state and local officials to keep the plants open, “they wrote.

“Their warnings of potential shortages prompted retailers to put limits on the amount of meat customers could buy.”

In phase one of the US-China deal, Beijing agreed to buy $ 12.5 billion in agricultural products this year from the United States, and another $ 19.5 billion in 2021. That deal was seen as a boon to meat processors. and the farmers who supply them, many of whom are in key states like Iowa.

Trump assured top meat industry CEOs in a private call in April that he was not interested in restricting pork exports to China, despite warnings of a possible shortage. On Monday, Trump tweeted that “China’s trade deal is completely intact” after comments from White House trade adviser Peter Navarro that the deal was canceled. Navarro later said his comments were taken out of context.

As of February, pork and variety pork exports accounted for 31% of all US production. USA, According to the US Meat Export Federation. USA Just over a third of those exports went to China, CNBC previously reported. During the first four months of 2020, the US USA It was on track to export 1.1 million metric tons of pork, 35% more than a year ago, according to the US Federation of Meat Exporters. USA