While pictures of empty grocery store shelves dominate social media, livestock industry leaders say the U.S. supply chain is working well.

According to Iowa Pork Producers Association (IPPA) CEO Pat McGonegle last week, distribution systems in Iowa for fresh meat are running as normal.

“So far, our processors in Iowa have been running at regular speeds, which has been outstanding. We’re very thankful for the workers in the plants, and for truckers and for everyone that makes these plants operate,” he said. “I also want to thank our friends at Fareway, Hy-Vee and independent grocers around the state. They have done a great job providing product to our customers.”

He said IPPA staff is remaining on call during the crisis to respond to members’ needs. And they are watching to see what help is needed for pork producers as the situation unfolds.

Farm to fork

Last week Greg Ibach, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) under secretary for marketing and regulatory programs, and Mindy Brashears, USDA deputy under secretary for food safety, jointly penned a letter to stakeholders in the fresh meat market reassuring everyone of the government’s response and support at this time. 

“As leaders of USDA’s [inspection services], we can assure you that the agencies are committed to ensuring the health and safety of our employees while still providing the timely delivery of the services to maintain the movement of America’s food supply from farm to fork… . As we come together as a country to address this public health threat, know that USDA remains committed to working closely with industry to fulfill our mission of ensuring the safety of the U.S. food supply and protecting agricultural health.”

The White House issued guidance last week exempting health care, pharmaceutical and food supply workers from being shut down. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued a national emergency declaration to loosen hours-of-service rules to commercial vehicle drivers transporting product in these three areas.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds last week issued an additional State Public Health Emergency Declaration effective immediately providing additional regulatory relief to Iowans. 

The proclamation suspends certain regulations to ease the transportation of agricultural supplies and commodities, food, medical supplies, cleaning products, and other household goods on all highways in Iowa.