In this file:
· CNBC: Warren, Booker investigate Tyson, other pork companies over China exports, coronavirus
· NYT: Warren and Booker Press Meatpackers on Exports to China
Warren, Booker investigate Tyson, other pork companies over China exports, coronavirus
o Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker said Tuesday they are opening an investigation of Tyson Foods, JBS USA, Cargill and Smithfield Foods.
o The move comes after reports that the meatpacking companies were exporting a record amount of pork to China, while warning of impending meat shortages and raising prices in the United States during the coronavirus pandemic.
o In letters to the CEOs of the companies Warren and Booker demanded information about how each company protects workers who have or may contract the coronavirus, and how much meat they each export to China.
Lauren Hirsch, CNBC
Jun 23 2020
Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker said Tuesday they are opening an investigation of 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 the meatpacking companies were exporting a record amount of pork to China, while warning of impending meat shortages and raising prices in the United States.
Pork is an integral part of the U.S.-China trade agreement, which President Donald Trump has touted as one of his prime accomplishments. But while China buys some pork products and parts that Americans do not consume, the decision to export in large quantities to China comes as American workers have fallen sick − or died − from coronavirus in pork plants across the country.
In letters to the CEOs of Tyson, Cargill, JBS and Smithfield Foods, Warren, of Massachusetts, and Booker, of New Jersey, demanded information about how each company protects workers who have or may contract the coronavirus, and how much meat they each export to China.
“Your companies created the conditions that left your workers and the supply chain vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic – but instead of addressing them, you used the prospect of food shortages to secure a federal license to put your workers in harm’s way,” the former presidential candidates wrote.
Representatives for Tyson, JBS and Smithfield didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Cargill said it was still reviewing the letter.
In April, Billionaire John Tyson, chairman of the nation’s largest meat processor, Tyson Foods, took out a full-page ad in several of the nation’s most-read newspapers warning “the food supply chain is breaking,” days before Trump issued an executive order requiring the plants to remain open. His order came as a growing number of workers reported being infected by the virus, amid working conditions that required frequent close contact in tight quarters.
Still, a number of grocers told CNBC at the time they had yet see signs of the shortage that Tyson had warned of. A spokesperson for Kroger said there was “plenty of protein in the supply chain,” while a spokesperson for Texas grocer H-E-B said they were adding new limits for customers’ meat purchases after John Tyson’s ad, over fears of stockpiling.
Those actions were cited by Booker and Warren.
“In April, while thousands of your workers were falling ill due to your own inability or unwillingness to implement worker protections, your companies warned that the ‘country [was] perilously close to the edge in terms of our meat supply’ and that ‘the food supply chain is breaking,’ while publicly pressing federal, state, and local officials to keep plants open,” they wrote.
“Your warnings of potential shortages prompted retailers to place limits on the amount of meat that customers could purchase.”
In phase one of the U.S.-China deal, Beijing agreed to buy $12.5 billion in agricultural goods this year from the United States, and another $19.5 billion in 2021. That agreement was viewed as a boon to meat processors and the farmers that supply them, many of whom are located in key swing states like Iowa.
Trump reassured major meat industry CEOs in a private call in April he was not interested in restricting pork exports to China, despite warnings of potential shortages. On Monday, Trump tweeted...
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Warren and Booker Press Meatpackers on Exports to China
Senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker questioned how companies could warn of pandemic shortages while exporting record amounts of pork to China.
By Michael Corkery, The New York Times (NYT)
June 23, 2020
Two prominent Democrats in the Senate are questioning how meatpacking companies could justify exporting record amounts to China in April while warning of a shortage of pork and beef across the United States.
Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Cory Booker of New Jersey sent a letter late Monday to the chief executives of Smithfield, Tyson, Cargill and JBS, criticizing them for exporting to China at the same time they were lobbying the Trump administration to keep their plants open during the pandemic because they wanted to keep feeding Americans.
The senators said the companies were putting their workers’ lives in danger while also raising food prices for American consumers.
“This pattern of behavior raises questions about whether you are living up to your commitments to the workers who produce your pork and beef, the communities in which you operate and the nation’s consumers that rely on your products to feed their families,” Ms. Warren and Mr. Booker wrote.
The letter was prompted by an article in The New York Times last week detailing how pork exports to China totaled a record 129,000 tons in April, when the profitable demand in that country surged.
Representatives for Tyson and Cargill declined to comment on the letter. Smithfield, which is owned by a Chinese company, and JBS did not return requests for comment.
The meat companies have said shortages across the United States were a legitimate concern. Dozens of their plants were forced to close through April and into May, as thousands of workers tested positive for the coronavirus and dozens died.
The companies said much of the exported meat had been produced weeks before it was shipped to China and before packing plants became hot spots for the virus. Since President Trump signed an executive order in late April to keep the plants operating, some of the large meat companies have switched their production to better meet domestic demand, they said.
Data shows that meat exports continued to surge in May. Exports of poultry increased 28 percent from a year earlier, according to Panjiva, the supply-chain research unit of S&P Global Market Intelligence. And pork exports to China rose 590 percent from a year earlier, reaching their highest level since at least 2009.
The pork industry, in particular, had been banking on a boom in exports to China, the world’s largest consumer, after a thaw in the trade war with the United States late last year. The industry had been building up its processing and packing capacity and raising more pigs.
In their letter, Ms. Warren and Mr. Booker asked the companies...