‘Either I Risk It All Or Nothing At All’: Migrant Workers’ Need To Work Outweighs COVID-19 Concerns

Since June, there have been 21 COVID-19 cases linked to the hotel where an entire crew of migrant workers are living, according to the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, which tracks COVID-19 cases across Champaign County. The hotel is tied for third largest outbreak in the county, based on internal statewide public health data from July through September obtained by the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting.

USDA Beef inspectors

Confidential coronavirus outbreak data shows undisclosed incidents at prisons, workplaces, schools, meatpacking plants across Illinois

Newly obtained confidential statewide data shows that coronavirus outbreaks in workplaces, schools and prisons are driving Illinois’ rising cases — and many of these outbreaks have never been made public.

U.S. Department of Labor cites Smithfield Packaged Meats Corp. for failing to protect employees from coronavirus

September 10, 2020
U.S. Department of Labor Cites Smithfield Packaged Meats Corp. For Failing to Protect Employees from Coronavirus
SIOUX FALLS, SD - The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Smithfield Packaged Meats Corp. in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, for failing to protect employees from exposure to the coronavirus. OSHA proposed a penalty of $13,494, the maximum allowed by law. Based on a coronavirus-related inspection, OSHA cited the company for one violation of the general duty clause for failing to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards that can cause death or serious harm.

As questions mount about Roundup settlement, Black farmers sue Monsanto to stop herbicide’s sales

A lawsuit filed this week by the National Black Farmers Association seeks to stop agribusiness giant Bayer from selling Roundup, its popular herbicide that has been linked to cancer in recent years. The lawsuit, filed in St. Louis, alleges that Black farmers are forced by the agricultural system to spray Roundup and therefore are at risk of developing cancer. The lawsuit argues that Monsanto, which was bought by Bayer in 2018, knowingly failed and continues to fail to adequately warn farmers about the dangers of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup. Glyphosate is considered a probable carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Farmers to Families Food Box Program Reaches 75 Million Boxes Delivered

(Washington, D.C., Aug. 28, 2020) – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced today that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farmers to Families Food Box Program has distributed more than 75 million food boxes in support of American farmers and families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thousands of students from states with higher infection rates may return to University of Illinois

As many as 25,000 students may return next week to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign from areas with much higher infection rates of Covid-19 than Champaign County, according to a review of public health data by the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting. The campus has a total of about 51,000 students, of which 5,508 attended online in the last academic year. The university is located in Champaign County, which has a population of about 207,000, has an overall positivity rate of about 2%, although recently rates have been below 1%. 

The Midwest Center compared infection rates from public health data with student demographics and found: 

More than 20,000 students came from 357 Illinois ZIP codes that have positivity rates over 5%. About 33,000 students from 1,050 ZIP codes attended the university in the last academic year.10,769 of those students are from Illinois ZIP codes with positivity rates above 8%.As many as 5,000 students may be arriving from 33 states that have positivity rates higher than 5%. Governments are advised to have a Covid-19 positivity rate at 5% or lower for at least two weeks before reopening, according to the World Health Organization.

USDA provides update on investigation following 2019 Tyson beef plant closure and COVID-19 pandemic

(Washington, D.C., July 22, 2020) - As part of its commitment to ensuring fair and competitive markets for the livestock, meat and poultry industries, today the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a Boxed Beef and Fed Cattle Price Spread Investigation Report on its ongoing boxed beef and fed cattle price spread investigation. "The closure of the Tyson beef packing plant in Holcomb, Kansas, after a fire at the facility, and the COVID-19 pandemic clearly disrupted the markets and processing systems responsible for the production and sale of U.S. beef," said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. "The report examines these economic disruptions and the significant increase in the spread between boxed beef and fed cattle prices that resulted from them. While we're pleased to provide this update, we assure producers that our work continues in order to determine if there are any violations of the Packers and Stockyards Act. If any unfair practices are detected, we will take quick enforcement action."