Washington, DC— Today, the House voted on the next proposed legislation in response to the economic fallout from the current pandemic. The bill, referred to as the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, does not respond to requests for analysis of USDA neglect on animal, food, and worker safety during COVID-19. It also ignores calls for stronger meat inspection and processing regulation like halting slaughter line speed increases.
In response, Tony Corbo, Sr. Government Affairs Representative for Food & Water Action, issued the following statement:
“We applaud the House leadership for including provisions in H.R. 6559 that call on OSHA to implement an emergency rule to offer some protection to essential workers during the pandemic and to protect water access for all. However, we’re still seeing the brutal impacts of USDA’s neglect when it comes to the food supply chain. The House had an opportunity to stop the meat industry and current administration from putting profit ahead of common-sense protections in the relief package. We urge Congress to act in the public’s interest and fix the bill before it becomes law.
“As the coronavirus ravaged meatpacking workers, the federal government was busy giving the very industry to blame for outbreaks waivers to let them force workers to move faster in more crowded conditions. USDA has now implemented unprecedented numbers of increased line speeds in meat and poultry plants during the current pandemic.
“Line speed and reduced inspection have been the bull’s eye issues by industry for decades. Fast lines with fewer inspectors are desirable for profit-focused business but disastrous for workers and consumers. These deregulations are part of the collusion between this administration and the meat and poultry companies to push industry profits while ignoring public health and worker safety standards.
“There absolutely needs to be an independent investigation into USDA’s shortcomings in dealing with the pandemic. While other parts of the HEROES Act called for investigations by the Government Accountability Office, there was no such audit for USDA. The GAO must be called on to investigate USDA’s dereliction during the pandemic.”