Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., told the “Todd Starnes Radio Show” on Monday that the U.S. may be witnessing a slow-motion agricultural train crash that may result in a meat supply shortage while farmers euthanize their livestock.
Massie, who once raised cows, said that the disturbing agricultural trend is not new. He said farmers complained for years that despite the price of beef and pork increasing in supermarkets, they have not seen any of the benefits.
He said there are structural problems in place that will be exposed amid the coronavirus outbreak. He pointed to Smithfield’s decision to close a major pork plant in South Dakota over COVID-19 infections.
“All the pork in D.C. can’t make up for the loss of pork lost in South Dakota,” Massie said. “You can print all the money and give it away all you want, but if people aren’t going to work, if they’re not going to the factories—in particular these meat-processing plants—we’re going to have shortages.”
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Kenneth Sullivan, the CEO of Smithfield Foods, said in a statement that “it is impossible to keep our grocery stores stocked if our plants are not running. NPR pointed out that the closed plant produces up to 5 percent of the country’s pork.
“The closure of this facility, combined with a growing list of other protein plants that have shuttered across our industry, is pushing our country perilously close to the edge in terms of meat supply,” he wrote.
Massie identified some of the problems with the meat supply chain. He said there has been an effort to get Sonny Perdue, the agriculture secretary, to investigate meat packing companies to see why store prices do little to increase payouts for farmers. Massie said that four massive companies control U.S. meatpacking, which essentially destroys any chance for small companies to compete due to regulations.
“As the price of beef and pork rise in supermarkets rise, the price that farmers are seeing is going down,” he said. He predicted that, despite supply shortages, farmers may begin to euthanize their hogs and cattle and incinerate them.
Massie made headlines recently for forcing hundreds of lawmakers back to Washington to vote on the $2 trillion coronavirus recovery package because he insisted that the world’s largest money transfer ever deserved the attention. He faced criticism from both Republicans and Democrats, but was praised by conservatives for demanding accountability.
He told Starnes that his colleagues are finding it harder to pass the next bill “because they know they’re all going to have to come to work.”
“And my colleagues, a lot of them, frankly, are cowards,” he said. “They’re telling supermarket workers to go to work, they are telling the truckers to keep driving, yet they don’t want to show up for work. So by forcing them to come to work on the third bill, I’ve forestalled at least for a moment the ridiculousness of the fourth bill that Nancy Pelosi has been talking about.”
Todd Starnes, the best-selling author and radio host, pointed out that the U.S. could see up to 18 months of so-called rolling shutdowns. It is urgent for the economy that Americans are able to leave their homes again, but until there is “herd immunity” or a proven vaccine, many health officials say returning to anything that resembles our normal way of life is far off.
Starnes was citing Neel Kashkari, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Kashkari told CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday that it is becoming apparent that as other countries relax their “economic controls, the virus flares back up again.”
Bloomberg reported early Monday that the global effort to create a vaccine is on a level never seen before. There are 70 potential vaccines on the pipeline and three already in human trials.
“We could have these waves of flareups, controls, flareups and controls until we actually get a therapy or a vaccine,” he said. “I think we should all be focusing on an 18-month strategy for our health care system and our economy.”