Several Meat Plants Close After COVID-19 Outbreaks, Some Fear Potential Food Shortages
- Hundreds of meat plant workers have tested positive for COVID-19, forcing many plants to close down.
- However, some leaders, including Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, are fighting to keep them open, fearing that mass closures could lead to a food shortage across the country.
- While some experts say an immediate shortage is unlikely, others fear that a global shortage is inevitable. The head United Nations World Food Program said that if nothing is done, we could see a famine on a “biblical” scale.
- Some companies are doing their part to help this food crisis, like Publix, which announced an initiative to buy produce and milk from farmers to donate to food banks.
Meant Plants See High Infection Rates
Meat plants across the country are seeing severe COVID-19 outbreaks, forcing many to close and prompting fears of potential food shortages.
Hundreds of meat supply workers across the United States have contracted the novel coronavirus. Considered essential workers under stay-at-home orders, they are still going to work every day, standing in close proximity in shared spaces, and often touching shared equipment. Because most parts of their job make adequate social distancing close to impossible, these meat plants have become easy grounds for the virus to spread throughout.
Some plants have taken measures like increased cleanings, staggering breaks, and implementing temperature checks to protect the health of their employees. Others have claimed to relax policies about sick leave, but the pressure to work still exists.
Georgia resident Alejandra Wehunt told ABC News that when one of her co-workers at a poultry plant contracted COVID-19, she was still told that despite the pandemic, she had to show up to work or risk losing her job. Wehunt has a daughter, lives with her grandmother, and has other serious health issues, leaving her feeling like she had no choice but to stop going to work.
“Why are we losing our jobs because we don’t want to put our health in jeopardy,” she said to ABC.
Workers at these plants are not the only ones vulnerable to infection. According to a report from KY3 in Missouri, rural counties home to meat packing plants have a higher infection rate than major cities in the state.
Saline and Moniteau counties have the highest infection rates in Missouri, seeing 419 cases per 100,000 residents, and 341 cases per 100,000 residents respectively. Meanwhile, St. Louis county has a rate of 234 per 100,000. Experts believe that the meat plants are at least partially responsible for the scale of these outbreaks in these more rural places.
Still, the pressure for workers to show up so plants can stay open is not just coming from the plants themselves. Some leaders in the midwest, where food supply is a prominent industry, are urging for meat plants to stay open, too.
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds said she fears the potential outcomes of mass closures of plants. Her state produces one third of the nation’s pork, so she is concerned about job losses and food shortages.
“These are also essential businesses and an essential workforce,” Reynolds said in a statement. “Without them, people’s lives and our food supply will be impacted. So we must do our part to keep them open in a safe and responsible way.”
However, many are afraid that remaining open in a safe and responsible way is not a possibility for plants in Iowa and elsewhere.
Darrell Hendrickson, the Moniteau County, environmental specialist told KY3 that plants in his area have closed because social distancing is not really feasible.
“That’s the problem with facilities of this type,” he said. “They have distanced as much as possible, but I can’t guarantee they get 6 feet between all employees.”
Several plants nationwide have also closed. On Wednesday, Tyson ordered two of its meat plants to close, one of which is its biggest pork plant. That plant, based in Iowa, had over 180 coronavirus cases. It accounted for nearly half of the county’s total cases.
“Despite our continued efforts to keep our people safe while fulfilling our critical role of feeding American families, the combination of worker absenteeism, Covid-19 cases and community concerns has resulted in our decision to stop production,” the company said in a statement.
On Thursday, Tyson closed another in Washington state. Other major companies like Smithfield Foods and JBS USA have had to make the same decisions with some of their plants. With these continued closures, a lot of people are concerned about what this does to the food supply chain, and experts seem to have split opinions.
Food Shortage Fears
Purdue University economist Jason Lusk told ABC that closures should not cause immediate food shortages.
“It’s a very fluid and volatile situation to keep an eye out for in the days to come,” he said.
Others are more concerned. A representative for Tyson told the Washington Post that this means a “loss of a vital market outlet for farmers and further contributes to the disruption of the nation’s pork supply.”
The Post also explained that if grocers begin to run low on meat, consumers could begin to hoard it, the same way they did with toilet paper, beans, hand sanitizer, and other essentials during the beginning of the pandemic.
The head of the United Nations World Food Program, David Beasley, said that food shortages are going to be a global problem on a massive scale. He believes that if nothing is done soon, “we could be facing multiple famines of biblical proportions within a short few months.” According to Beasley, COVID-19 could cause an additional 130 million people be pushed to the brink of starvation by the end 2020.
Publix Food Plan
Some businesses are doing their part to make sure food supply is distributed to those who need it. Grocery chain Publix announced an initiative to make sure that food that could potentially go to waste gets donated.
“Restaurant, hotel, and school closings have affected Florida’s produce farmers and southeastern dairies, resulting in good food going to waste,” they said in a statement on Wednesday. “At the same time, Feeding America estimates 17.1 million people will experience food insecurity due to school closures and rising unemployment in the coming months.”
To curb this, Publix will be purchasing produce and milk directly from farmers to donate to Feeding America and local food banks. Within the first week, they anticipate donating 150,000 pounds of produce and 43,500 gallons of milk.
See what others are saying: (ABC News) (KY3) (Washington Post)
Disney Renders DeSantis-Appointed Oversight Board Powerless
The board is looking into avenues for potential legal retaliation, but Disney maintains its actions were “appropriate and were discussed and approved in open, noticed public forums.”
The Fight For Disney’s Special District
Disney has stripped powers from the board Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) installed to oversee its theme parks, board members claimed.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, board member Brian Aungst Jr. said Disney’s action “completely circumvents the authority of this board to govern.”
DeSantis has been waging a war against the House of Mouse ever since the company condemned his controversial “Don’t Say Gay” law, which heavily restricts the discussion of sexuality in classrooms. To retaliate against the company, he took control of Disney’s special status that allowed it to operate as a self-governing district with autonomy over the land encompassing and surrounding Walt Disney World.
Disney operated under that special status for decades under the Reedy Creek Improvement District, but after DeSantis took over, it was changed to the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. DeSantis appointed all members of the board, prompting concerns that it could be used to silence and sway Disney on social and cultural issues, including its content.
The oversight board gets control over infrastructure, property taxes, issue bonds, road and fire services, and other regulations. When DeSantis seized it, it was considered a big loss for the entertainment giant, but now, board members say the company may have lost little to no power at all.
As first reported by the Sentinel, Disney and the previous board signed an agreement allowing Disney to retain control over much of its land on Feb. 8, the day before Florida’s House signed the bill that gave DeSantis power to stack the board. Disney now holds veto powers over changes to the park, and any changes must be subject to the company’s “prior review and comment” to ensure thematic consistency.
The agreement also bars the board from using Disney’s name or trademarked characters like Mickey Mouse.
The Board’s Plan to Fight Back
Board members reportedly did not become aware of this until recently and discussed the issue at a Wednesday meeting.
“This essentially makes Disney the government,” board member Ron Peri said, via Click Orlando. “This board loses, for practical purposes, the majority of its ability to do anything beyond maintain the roads and maintain basic infrastructure.”
The subject of the agreement that has perhaps caught the most public attention is its staying power. The declaration says it will remain “in effect until 21 years after the death of the last survivor of the descendants of King Charles III, King of England living as of the date of this Declaration.” That means that so long as direct members of the royal family are alive, so is this deal.
According to BBC News, this is known as a “royal lives” clause and its use dates back to the 17th century, though it is rarely used in the U.S.
The board, however, already has plans to push back against Disney and has voted to hire outside legal counsel to evaluate their options.
“We’re going to have to deal with it and correct it,” Aungst said. “It’s a subversion of the will of the voters and the Legislature and the governor. It completely circumvents the authority of this board to govern.”
A spokesperson for DeSantis released a statement claiming that “these agreements may have significant legal infirmities that would render the contracts void as a matter of law.”
Disney maintains everything was above board.
“All agreements signed between Disney and the district were appropriate and were discussed and approved in open, noticed public forums in compliance with Florida’s Government in the Sunshine law,” the company said.
See what others are saying: (Orlando Sentinel) (Click Orlando) (The Washington Post)
White Supremacist Propaganda Reached Record High in 2022, ADL Finds
“We cannot sit idly by as these extremists pollute our communities with their hateful trash,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said.
White supremacist propaganda in the U.S. reached record levels in 2022, according to a report published Wednesday by the Anti-Defamation League’s Center of Extremism.
The ADL found over 6,700 cases of white supremacist propaganda in 2022, which marks a 38% jump from the nearly 4,900 cases the group found in 2021. It also represents the highest number of incidents ever recorded by the ADL.
The propaganda tallied by the anti-hate organization includes the distribution of racist, antisemitic, and homophobic flyers, banners, graffiti, and more. This propaganda has spread substantially since 2018, when the ADL found just over 1,200 incidents.
“There’s no question that white supremacists and antisemites are trying to terrorize and harass Americans with their propaganda,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement. “We cannot sit idly by as these extremists pollute our communities with their hateful trash.”
The report found that there were at least 50 white supremacist groups behind the spread of propaganda in 2022, but 93% of it came from just three groups. One of those groups was also responsible for 43% of the white supremacist events that took place last year.
White supremacist events saw a startling uptick of their own, with the ADL documenting at least 167, a 55% jump from 2021.
Propaganda was found in every U.S. state except for Hawaii, and events were documented in 33 states, most heavily in Massachusetts, California, Ohio, and Florida.
“The sheer volume of white supremacist propaganda distributions we are documenting around the country is alarming and dangerous,” Oren Segal, Vice President of the ADL’s Center on Extremism said in a statement. “Hardly a day goes by without communities being targeted by these coordinated, hateful actions, which are designed to sow anxiety and create fear.”
“We need a whole-of-society approach to combat this activity, including elected officials, community leaders, and people of good faith coming together and condemning this activity forcefully,” Segal continued.
See what others are saying: (Axios) (The Hill) (The New York Times)
Adidas Financial Woes Continue, Company on Track for First Annual Loss in Decades
Adidas has labeled 2023 a “transition year” for the company.
Adidas’ split with musician Kanye West has left the company with financial problems due to surplus Yeezy products, putting the sportswear giant in the position to potentially suffer its first annual loss in over 30 years.
Adidas dropped West last year after he made a series of antisemitic remarks on social media and other broadcasts. His Yeezy line was a staple for Adidas, and the surplus product is due, in part, to the brand’s own decision to continue production during the split.
According to CEO Bjorn Gulden, Adidas continued production of only the items already in the pipeline to prevent thousands of people from losing their jobs. However, that has led to the unfortunate overabundance of Yeezy sneakers and clothes.
On Wednesday, Gulden said that selling the shoes and donating the proceeds makes more sense than giving them away due to the Yeezy resale market — which has reportedly shot up 30% since October.
“If we sell it, I promise that the people who have been hurt by this will also get something good out of this,” Gulden said in a statement to the press.
However, Gulden also said that West is entitled to a portion of the proceeds of the sale of Yeezys per his royalty agreement.
Adidas announced in February that, following its divergence from West, it is facing potential sales losses totaling around $1.2 billion and profit losses of around $500 million.
If it decides to not sell any more Yeezy products, Adidas is facing a projected annual loss of over $700 million.
Outside of West, Adidas has taken several heavy profit blows recently. Its operating profit reportedly fell by 66% last year, a total of more than $700 million. It also pulled out of Russia after the country’s invasion of Ukraine last year, which cost Adidas nearly $60 million dollars. Additionally, China’s “Zero Covid” lockdowns last year caused in part a 36% drop in revenue for Adidas compared to years prior.
As a step towards a solution, Gulden announced that the company is slashing its dividends from 3.30 euros to 0.70 euro cents per share pending shareholder approval.
Adidas has labeled 2023 a “transition year” for the company.
“Adidas has all the ingredients to be successful. But we need to put our focus back on our core: product, consumers, retail partners, and athletes,” Gulden said. “I am convinced that over time we will make Adidas shine again. But we need some time.”