U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet has cosponsored legislation to reduce fees that meatpacking plants pay for holiday and overtime food inspections.
“The COVID-19 crisis has hit the food supply chain – from producers to our essential workforce – particularly hard,” said Bennet. “In addition to prioritizing the health of workers, we should look to reduce barriers for small meatpackers who are stepping up and running overtime to keep the supply chain moving.”
Bennet was previously critical of the Trump Administration's order to keep meatpacking plants open during the pandemic.
Federal law requires the Food Safety and Inspection Service to have personnel present during livestock slaughter and further processing of meat. FSIS charges between $64 and $95 per hour per employee for voluntary, overtime and holiday inspections.
The Small Packer Overtime and Holiday Fee Relief for COVID–19 Act would discount that rate by at least 30% for small facilities, and by at least 75% for facilities with fewer than 10 employees. The bill sets aside $58 million to cover the changes in rates.
Meatpacking plants have been COVID-19 hot spots due to the lower temperatures inside and close proximity of processing workers. JBS USA in Greeley has reported 316 cases, the second-highest number of deaths linked to a single facility. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that plants stagger workers’ shifts, potentially converting to a 24-hour operation where previously there may have been one shift.