Smithfield Foods Inc. will begin resuming operations in Sioux Falls, S.D., on May 8 after receiving positive confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture that the company is in full compliance with all CDC and Occupational Safety & 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 Smithfield anticipates that the facility will be fully operational by late May. The plant has the capacity to process 19,500 hogs per day.
Testing, which is being administered by the state of South Dakota, is available to all Smithfield employees prior to returning to work. To date, more than 2,000 employees have been tested, and 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 4-5% 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 to provide 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.
“The Smithfield reopening is welcome news for South Dakota’s pig farmers,” South Dakota Pork Producers executive director Glenn Muller said. “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.”
BJ Motley, president of United Food & Commercial Workers Local 304A, noted, “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.”
Smithfield said the core of its reopening plan focuses 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 that includes masks and face shields, has implemented mass thermal scanning and has installed physical barriers on its production floors and in break areas. These measures remain mandatory, non-negotiable conditions for the company to operate.