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A look at a Biden presidency’s likely impacts on the meat industry

More than two months before his Jan. 20 inauguration, President-elect Joe Biden assembled a task force to tackle the deteriorating state of COVID-19 management in the United States. It was a jumpstart on Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda, which assailed the Trump administration’s handling of a pandemic that, as of mid-December, had killed nearly 300,000 Americans, put millions more out of work and surged to new heights, with daily new cases surpassing 200,000.

The official Biden agenda doesn’t explicitly mention an approach to the meat industry, but then it needn’t do so. The Democratic candidate’s repeated public criticism of both Trump and the industry during the campaign offered more than a clue. And his plan to double the number of inspection personnel at OSHA is not so subtle, either.

OSHA regulators likely will have more teeth, too. Legal experts and industry officials have little doubt that pro-labor Biden will turn up the dial on current voluntary guidelines and implement an emergency temporary standard (ETS) that mandates workplace safety rules — in a matter of a couple months. Even earlier than that, the administration can use state ETS programs as a proxy.

“There is no question that workplace safety enforcement will be much more aggressive under a Biden OSHA,” says Richard Alaniz, a veteran labor law attorney whose clients include meatpackers.

A more stringent OSHA is one of the more immediate considerations to note in the federal government’s executive branch, also home to significant activity at USDA, the Department of Justice and U.S. Trade Representative’s office. Meanwhile, turnover in the legislative branch, from the House and Senate Agriculture Committees to the balance of power in Congress overall, also has longer-term implications.

Read our in-depth feature, “Inaugural address,” on those implications in the January issue of Meatingplace magazine.

By Tom Johnston on 1/20/2021

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