Meatpacking plants have been a major vector for the coronavirus in rural areas, and many states and counties were ordering them closed to slow the spread of the disease. But in late April, President Trump ordered that plants must stay open in order to supply food.
"Emails obtained by ProPublica show that the meat industry may have had a hand in its own White House rescue: Just a week before the order was issued, the meat industry’s trade group drafted an executive order that bears striking similarities to the one the president signed," Michael Grabell and Bernice Yeung report. "The draft that Julie Anna Potts, the president of the North American Meat Institute, sent to top officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture was written using the framework of an official executive order and stressed the importance of the food supply chain and how outbreaks had reduced production — themes later addressed in the president’s order."
It isn't clear what USDA and White House officials did with the draft, and the final wording of the executive order wasn't verbatim, but Trump's order emphasized all the points Potts proposed, setting in stone her suggested order to keep meatpacking plants open, Grabell and Yeung report. The ProPublica story provides multiple examples of striking similarities between Potts' draft and Trump's order.
"The draft executive order was one of hundreds of emails between the companies, industry groups and top officials at the USDA since March," Grabell and Yeung report. "Together, they show that throughout the coronavirus crisis, the meatpacking industry has repeatedly turned to the agency for help beating back local public health orders and loosening regulations to keep processing lines running."