Washington, D.C. – A JBS-Swift pork plant located in Beardstown, Illinois was recently awarded a second contract for the purchase of pork products under the USDA Trade Mitigation purchase program.
On February 15, 2019, the JBS-Swift plant was awarded a contract for the purchase of 858,888 pounds of pork products valued at $2,276,032. On May 2, 2019, this plant was awarded a second contract for the purchase of 2,654,720 pounds of pork products valued at $5,571,398.40.
“Why is the USDA bailing out plants operated by JBS, the largest meatpacker in the world, with a program designed to help domestic companies and producers under economic duress? Today, JBS, headquartered in Brazil, reported a net income of 1.09 billion reals – $273 billion – for the first quarter of 2019. This company does not seem to be hurting,” said Tony Corbo, Senior Lobbyist at Food & Water Watch.
The Trade Mitigation purchase program is designed to assist agricultural entities that have been adversely impacted by retaliatory measures taken by countries which have been subject to tariffs imposed by the Trump Administration. The purchased products are used in the various nutrition programs that are administered by USDA, such as the National School Lunch Program.
The JBS-Swift slaughter plant is one of five plants that operate under a pilot program called the HAACP-based Inspection Models Project (HIMP). In these pilot program plants, the number of USDA inspectors working on the slaughter line is reduced by as much as 57 percent and most of the inspection is performed by company employees. The plant is also permitted to run its line speed faster than 1106 head per hour, the maximum line speed for a traditionally inspected plant. In 2018, the Trump Administration proposed an extension of the privatized inspection model to more hog slaughter facilities, which is expected to be finalized this spring.
“This plant is being operated under a line speed waiver that is adding to the glut of pork on the market. Has the plant adjusted its line speed to deal with excess production?” asked Corbo.
According to records Food & Water Watch obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, USDA inspectors at this plant have prevented infected carcasses from being further processed because the company inspectors failed to identify the contamination.
“Why is USDA doing business with a plant that might cause a food borne illness outbreak among school kids? It’s time for a full evaluation of the Trade Mitigation procurement program because it is not helping those who need it most or deserve the assistance,” said Corbo.
Food & Water Watch mobilizes regular people to build political power to move bold and uncompromised solutions to the most pressing food, water, and climate problems of our time. We work to protect people’s health, communities, and democracy from the growing destructive power of the most powerful economic interests.
Contact: Darcey Rakestraw, 202-683-2467; [email protected]