SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – Hundreds of employees at the Smithfield Foods plant in Sioux Falls have tested positive for COVID-19. Over the weekend Smithfield announced the plant will be closing until further notice. This comes after the Governor and Mayor recommended it shut down for 14 days.
According to the executive director of the South Dakota Pork Producers Council, there are 550 independent producers in the region that are supplying Smithfield with hogs. The closure of the processing plant is leaving pork producers concerned.
“Our South Dakota producers supply about 30%-35% of the hogs that are processed, Minnesota would probably be in that 40%-45% range, the balance coming from Iowa and other surrounding states, so this is not a state issue, this is a regional issue and has major implications throughout the regions beyond South Dakota,” executive director SD Pork Producers Council, Glenn Muller said.
“Going to be devastating for pork producers that are hauling in there, even for the truck drivers, the whole distribution chain,” South Dakota Pork Producers Council president, Craig Andersen said.
Muller says there is a production and distribution cycle that needs to be maintained.
“Producers have very minimal time, three or four days by the time a barn is emptied out until it’s refilled, the same goes with the packers, they are working very efficiently at full capacity to kill the hogs and process the product to get it out to consumers as quickly as possible, so any glitch in the system, creates major problems for our industry,” Muller said.
While the future is uncertain, producers are trying to remain positive.
“We don’t know what the new normal will look like, we know we are going to have to get through this first, and then everything is going to be changed, and so how much it changes and where it is going to change to is all going to be a moving target,” Andersen said.
Andersen says he understands the mayor wants to take precautions during this time. Muller assures consumers there are no concerns with the safety of the food.