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Congressman calls out FSIS for pork plant disruptions

Nebraska’s pork industry finishes over 5.43 million hogs per year, returning over $1.06 billion in cash receipts.

Ann Hess

January 18, 2024

2 Min Read
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This week U.S. Congressman Mike Flood sent USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack a letter after reports came in that a Food Safety and Inspection Service inspection team failed to show up at a pork production plant in Madison, Nebraska.

Flood noted while the state was impacted by challenging weather, FSIS inspectors are essential employees and required for the operation of meat and poultry facilities across the country.

“The safety of Nebraskans is my top priority and I understand the importance of taking precautions in light of challenging weather. However, state and communities in the area are taking the necessary steps to allow essential employees to return to work,” Flood wrote. “Furthermore, clear protocols must be executed that ensure the operational integrity of our nation’s meat and poultry production.”

Nebraska’s pork industry finishes over 5.43 million hogs per year, returning over $1.06 billion in cash receipts. As of 2021, Nebraska’s pork industry and related activity supported 17,866 jobs and more than $978 million in personal income.

“If our communities can show up to work, the USDA can too. Our pork producers are ready and waiting; our plant wants to operate; the USDA must step up to the plate and fulfill its mission to serve rural America,” concluded Flood.

FSIS response

A FSIS spokesperson, said all FSIS in-plant personnel understand their essential role in providing inspection services, however, the agency also firmly believes that the health, safety and welfare of their personnel is paramount, and must be considered together with production needs during severe weather events.

"FSIS routinely coordinates with establishments, including in this instance, in advance of any severe weather situations to establish a plan that considers both the safety of establishment and FSIS in-plant personnel and inspection needs. FSIS and the establishment were in communication and agreed that on January 15, FSIS would provide an inspector for the processing side of the establishment but no slaughter operations would occur due to hazardous driving conditions. The establishment returned to full operations January 16."

FSIS also pointed to local news coverage that showed the severity and impact of the recent snowstorm in Eastern Nebraska, including the Madison area, with the storm creating “’life-threatening’ blizzard weather conditions”. In response to the extreme conditions created by the storm, Nebraska Governor Pillen declared a state of emergency and urged Nebraskans to stay home. Roads in northeast Nebraska were still largely closed Monday morning, creating challenges for employees to get to work.

Earlier this week, Tyson Foods indicated that it had temporarily reduced meatpacking operations at some U.S. facilities due to the recent storms and was working to fulfill orders at other plants. Last week, the firm canceled two shifts at its beef plant in Holcomb, Kansas, while offering employees hot meals and a place to seek shelter.

About the Author(s)

Ann Hess

Content Director, National Hog Farmer

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