President Donald Trump said Tuesday he will sign an executive order to protect food companies from coronavirus liability.
“We’re working with Tyson. We’re going to sign an executive order today, I believe, and that will solve any liability problems,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office.
Trump did not outline the specifics of the order, but said it would help ensure the US food supply is not disrupted by the COVID-19 crisis.
“We’re working with Tyson, which is one of the big companies in that world. And we always work with the farmers. There is plenty of supply, there is plenty of, as you know, there’s plenty of supply — it’s distribution and we will probably have that today solved.”
Trump added: “It was a very unique circumstance because of liability.”
It’s unclear if the order will shield companies from lawsuits from workers, customers, or both.
Trump referred a reporter’s follow-up question on details to White House staff.
Republicans and some White House officials had pushed Trump to shield companies after outbreaks of the coronavirus at meatpacking plants forced some to close.
John Tyson, Tyson’s board chairman, warned in newspaper ads Sunday that “the food supply chain is breaking,” after the company closed a pork packing plant in Iowa,
“As pork, beef and chicken plants are being forced to close, even for short periods of time, millions of pounds of meat will disappear from the supply chain,” Tyson warned.
Democrats, who previously resisted a liability shield for N-95 face mask manufacturers, are wary of granting food companies liability protection.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said he was skeptical of liability protections pushed by Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
Schumer said Tuesday: “Is he saying that if an owner tells a worker they have to work next to somebody who might have coronavirus without a mask or PPE, that that owner wouldn’t be liable? That makes no sense.”