Smithfield Foods, Inc. will begin resuming operations in its Sioux Falls, S.D. facility Thursday after receiving positive confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the USDA that the company is in full compliance with all CDC and Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidance. The company will take a phased approach to resuming its operations. The harvest floor will reopen on May 11 and the company anticipates that the facility will be fully operational by late May. Testing, which is being administered by the state of South Dakota, is available to all Smithfield employees prior to returning to work. To date, over 2,000 employees have been tested. 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 to 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 that provides 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.
"President Trump took decisive action last week to ensure America's food supply remained stable," says Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. "These meat processing facilities implemented CDC and OSHA guidance quickly and effectively, providing uniform health and safety standards so their employees know they are operating in a safe environment. I want to thank these patriotic meat processing facility workers who are returning to work to make sure that America's producers and ranchers can bring their product to market and the American people can have food to eat."
"The Smithfield reopening is welcome news for South Dakota's pig farmers," says Glenn Muller, executive director of the South Dakota Pork Producers. "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."
“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," says BJ Motley, president, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 304A.
At the core of the reopening plan is the company's ongoing focus 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, including masks and face shields, has implemented mass thermal scanning and installed physical barriers on its production floors and in break areas. These measures remain mandatory and nonnegotiable conditions for the company to operate.