President Trump Issues Executive Order on Food Supply Chains

On April 28, President Trump signed Executive Order 13917, “Executive Order on Delegating Authority Under the DPA with Respect to Food Supply Chain Resources During the National Emergency Caused by the Outbreak of COVID-19.” The order sought to give Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Purdue additional control over the facilities creating the crux of the food supply chain for pork, beef, and poultry during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the order, President Trump stated that the delegation of authority exists under Section 101 of the Defense Production Act (“DPA”). This section of the DPA, found at 50 U.S.C. Sec. 4511, states that during a national emergency the President may “allocate materials, services, and facilities in such manner, upon such conditions, and to such extent as he shall deem necessary or appropriate to promote the national defense” and, if desired, delegate this presidential authority to the head of any federal agency.

Accordingly, the order concluded that facilities processing meat and poultry meet the DPA standard by holding that “closure of a single meat or poultry processing facility can severely disrupt the supply of protein to an entire grocery store chain.” As such, the order further stated that the Secretary shall “use the authority under section 101 of the [DPA]…to determine the…facilities necessary to ensure the continued supply of meat and poultry, consistent with the guidance for the operations of meat and poultry processing facilities jointly issued by the CDC and OSHA.” The order continued by averring that the Secretary may “identify additional specific food supply chains resources (beyond meat and poultry) that meet the criteria of section 101(b).”

On the same day, the USDA issued a press release in response to the order. The statement confirmed that the USDA plans to work with “meat processing [facilities] to affirm they will operate in accordance with the CDC and OSHA guidelines, and then work with state and local officials to ensure that these plants are allowed to operate to produce the meat protein that Americans need.” The press release concluded with the promise of “additional information and details” as to the action plan for the USDA’s implementation of the order.