Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons, both D-Delaware, joined Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, and 34 Senate Democrats on April 21 to urge Vice President Mike Pence and other members of the Trump administration to take action to help ensure the safety of the nation’s food supply and protect essential workers in the food supply chain.
“It is vital that we do everything we can to protect food supply workers,” wrote the senators. “Breakdowns in the food supply chain could have significant economic impacts for both consumers and agricultural producers. It is also imperative that precautions are taken to ensure the stability and safety of our food supply.”
There have been numerous reports of essential workers in meatpacking plants, processing facilities, farms, grocery stores and markets falling ill from COVID-19. Some workers have reportedly felt pressured to go to work even when feeling sick. There are also serious concerns about the health of farmworkers who often work, live and travel in close proximity, making social distancing very difficult.
“The severe shortages of adequate COVID-19 testing capability and personal protective equipment are exacerbating these problems,” wrote the senators. “Lack of access to tests and personal protective equipment leaves essential food supply workers at even higher risk and makes the virus more likely to spread, harming more workers and further damaging our food supply chain.”
The senators urged the White House and federal agencies to coordinate with state and local governments and the private sector to take aggressive action to protect essential workers and the food supply from further damage. The senators also asked a series of questions about the actions being taken and coordination with the food industry.
In addition to Pence, the letter was sent to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, Food and Drug Commissioner Stephen Hahn, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf.
The full text of the letter is available at bit.ly/2VQcgGn.