COVID-19 deaths go uninvestigated as OSHA takes a hands-off approach to meatpacking plants

Normally, a workplace death in the United States is met with a swift and thorough response. 

By law, employers must report a death within eight hours to the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration. An inspector from OSHA typically arrives within a day to interview workers, review the site of the incident, and determine whether the death resulted from unsafe conditions. For workers in the meatpacking industry during the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the system of swift reporting and next-day inspections that should protect them has broken down. 

At least 239 meatpacking workers have died and 45,000 have contracted the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, according to tracking by the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting. But companies reported less than half that number of deaths to OSHA, a joint investigation by USA TODAY and the Midwest Center found. Experts say that's in large part because the agency weakened reporting requirements during the pandemic. 

Even fewer deaths triggered the kind of robust investigation OSHA typically conducted before the pandemic.

Opinion: The top agricultural story of 2020 is…

In a normal year we would be debating several worthy agricultural stories as the most important. We certainly would be taking a hard look at the continuing dicamba herbicide saga. 2020 saw the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit de-register dicamba formulations in the middle of the growing season from Bayer AG, Corteva, and BASF because of shoddy regulatory control at the Environmental Protection Agency:

Lawsuit Alleges Farmworkers Sickened After Pesticide Exposure

In late July 2019, a group of migrant farmworkers from south Texas was working in a cornfield in DeWitt County, Ill., when suddenly a crop duster flew overhead, spraying them with pesticides. Panicked, the crew, which included teenagers and a pregnant woman, ran off the field with clothes doused in pesticides. Their eyes and throats burned and some had trouble breathing.

Opinion: Dicamba 2021…haven’t we seen this movie before?

Movie plot: In a heroic effort to save the world's soybean crop from dastardly evolving weeds the Environmental Protection Agency authorizes Big Ag – staring Bayer AG and BASF – to unleash the flawed herbicide dicamba in a desperate all-out assault. The EPA acknowledges the holy h-e-double-toothpicks of dicamba is risky but assures everyone they've “got a label” for that. Dicamba beats back the weed invaders, but collateral damage is huge to the nation's peach, cotton, tobacco, tomato, and sunflower crops. EPA says it's sorry about all the unwanted damage and swears to tweak dicamba rules of weed engagement and next time it will be difference (cue patriotic music and American flags).

Opinion: Will California Prop-12 become a gold standard?

A couple of federal court cases working their way through California's appellate system spell big trouble for Big-Meat. 

Most recently the North American Meat Institute was slam dunked sideways by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on its effort to stop California Prop 12 from going into effect.

Opinion: Humanity’s future at stake on November 3rd

In the history of our planet there have been five previous major mass extinctions. Now there's a sixth mass extinction brewing.... the Holocene extinction. The Holocene is comparable in scope to the one that wiped T-Rex and all his dinosaur brethern off the face of the earth. Until recently a majority of the public had no idea about the ticking time bomb in their midst.