Federal judge stops Trump policy that allowed no limit on slaughter line speeds

SD Ag ConnectionMay 4, 2021Agriculture News
Seaboard Foods

GUYMON, OK – One of the largest U.S. pork processors in the United States  wants to pursue a 10-1/2-month delay to a federal court decision that would force it to slow the speed of hog slaughtering at a massive Oklahoma pork plant, according to court documents.

Seaboard, the second-biggest U.S. pig producer/processor after Smithfield Foods, sped up its Guymon operations last year after the U.S. government removed limits on pork plant line speeds in late 2019. It was the first plant to operate under the new rule, which was intended to allow processors to produce meat more quickly.

The company is now intervening  in the line speed case after a federal judge ruled against the Trump administration policy allowing pork plants to run slaughter line speeds as fast as they want.

But plant workers and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union say it’s time to slow down.  Workers told Reuters the faster line speeds increased injuries at the plant. Nationwide, inspections of serious incidents at meat plants rose last year. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) conducted 27 inspections at non-poultry meat plants in 2020 due to either a “fatality” or a “catastrophe,” up from one in 2017, three in 2018 and five in 2019, OSHA data shows.

A lawsuit brought against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union had challenged the 2019 rule over concerns about worker safety.

A judge in U.S. District Court in Minnesota invalidated the rule on March 31 but stayed the decision for 90 days to give companies and the Biden administration time to adapt.

Seaboard said in court filings on Friday it will need 313 days more to clear out excess hogs from its production process if the company is required to revert to slower processing speeds