Customers hoarding toilet paper during the coronavirus outbreak might want to pay attention. Missouri Department of Agriculture Director Chris Chinn says widespread food shortages are not expected but localized meat shortages and increased prices for some items are possible. During today’s press conference, Chinn says much of the food supply depends on a “just-in-time” delivery system.

Cows by a fence (photo: Happy Fence Friday, Larry Brown)

“For some agriculture products, we are experiencing bottlenecks with processing raw farm products into the items that you see in the grocery store,” she says. “A lot of work goes into bottling milk or preparing a package of steaks or pork chops. As food processing businesses slow down production or sometimes close due to COVID-19, there will inevitably be market disruptions.”

Chinn says as of early April, Missouri farmers stopped dumping milk because of supply chain disruptions.

She backs President Donald Trump’s executive order to reopen closed meat processing plants since the Homeland Security Department deemed agriculture as “critical infrastructure” in March.

Chinn says meat processing workers are unsung heroes that ensure the food reaches the dinner table and they play an important in America’s food security, just like farmers and ranchers.

“There are protein processors of all sizes from major companies all the way down to small mom-and-pop businesses in the state of Missouri,” she says. “They all matter. They mattered before COVID-19 and they matter today.”

After some Missouri meat processing plant workers tested positive for the coronavirus, the state began doing mass testing at some sites in St. Joseph and Saline and Moniteau Counties.

View today’s entire press briefing below:

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