To the relief of many ranchers and consumers, Smithfield Foods announced its will begin resuming operations in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, today after receiving positive confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and United States Department of Agriculture that the company is in full compliance with all CDC and Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidance. The company will take a phased approach to resuming its operations. The harvest floor will reopen on May 11, and the company anticipates that the facility will be fully operational by late May.
The Sioux Falls facility, which has been closed for more than three weeks, is one of the largest pork processing facilities in the country, representing four to five percent of U.S. pork production. It supplies nearly 130 million servings of food per week, or about 18 million servings per day, and employs 3,700 people. More than 550 independent family farmers supply the plant. The reopening of the facility after the activation of the Defense Production Act last week helps safeguard the country’s food supply that provides sustenance to hundreds of millions of Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic. It also protects the livelihoods of millions of American family farmers who produce bountiful livestock supplies but rely on meat processing facilities to convert that abundance into food.
Testing, which is being administered by the State of South Dakota, is available to all Smithfield employees prior to returning to work. To date, over 2,000 employees have been tested. More tests will be conducted in the coming weeks as the company slowly ramps up its operations.
“The Smithfield reopening is welcome news for South Dakota’s pig farmers,” said Glenn Muller, executive director of the South Dakota Pork Producers. “As employees return to the plant tomorrow, we want them to know how much we appreciate and value the role they play in helping our state’s pig farmers meet consumer demand for pork. This is a significant and important step forward in normalizing our food supply chain.”
At the core of the reopening plan is the company’s ongoing focus on employee health and safety and continued adherence with — at a minimum — CDC and OSHA guidance. Across all its facilities, the company is providing its team members with personal protective equipment, including masks and face shields, has implemented mass thermal scanning and installed physical barriers on its production flors and in break areas. These measures remain mandatory and nonnegotiable conditions for the company to operate. Photos of the company’s protective measures are available here.