Iowa political reaction to BPI plant closures

Beef Products, Inc. announced yesterday that it will permanently close three factories in Waterloo, Iowa, Amarillo, Texas and Garden City, Kansas. BPI suspended operations at those plants in March, following public controversy over lean finely textured beef, which detractors call “pink slime.” The Waterloo facility employed 200 people, who will be jobless effective May 25.

Comments from Governor Terry Branstad, Senator Chuck Grassley, and Representative Bruce Braley are after the jump. Branstad and Grassley criticized what they have called a “smear campaign” against lean finely textured beef. Braley, who previously called for a Congressional investigation into media claims about the product, expressed regret that “the facts have been lost in the furor” over lean finely textured beef.

Press release from Governor Terry Branstad, May 7:

(DES MOINES) – Gov. Terry Branstad today released the following statement upon learning of Beef Products, Inc.’s plans to permanently close three plants, including one in Waterloo that employs more than 200 Iowans:

“This is a sad day for the state of Iowa. The fact that a false, misleading smear campaign can destroy a company’s reputation overnight should disturb us all. My office will never stop fighting for every single job in this state, and I continue to hope that as consumers learn about this safe, healthy and lean product, they will understand what a great product lean, finely textured beef truly is.

“Unfortunately, we have learned that what a ruinous smear campaign accomplishes overnight can take years to correct. I want those workers who now face the daunting task of finding a new job to know that my administration will always fight for them. Today they go home to their families and will soon be without a job, all because some media on the coasts decided to unfairly and viciously smear the product they so proudly produced.

“Our thoughts and hearts go out to the people at BPI, Inc. We continue to stand with you, and will always do so proudly.”

Senator Chuck Grassley press release, May 7:

Senator Chuck Grassley released the following statement after Beef Products Inc. announced it would close permanently its three plants in Waterloo, IA; Garden City, KS; and Amarillo, TX.  The South Sioux City, NE plant is expected to remain open.

“It’s a real shame that a smear campaign of misinformation that neither accurately describes lean finely textured beef, nor is fair to the hard-working people who make it, is costing a lot of people their jobs today.  BPI worked very hard to save these jobs, but there just wasn’t enough time to educate the public about the company’s process that was approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and used in hundreds of other foods, besides beef, that’s been consumed safely for more than 20 years.”

Representative Bruce Braley (D, IA-01) press release, May 7:

Washington, D.C. – Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) today released the following statement after Beef Products, Inc., announced it was permanently closing its Waterloo plant, citing the negative consequences of the media firestorm surrounding lean, finely textured beef:

“My heart goes out to the workers in Waterloo and elsewhere who learned they lost their jobs today,” Braley said.  “It’s a shame that the facts have been lost in the furor over lean, finely textured beef and it’s frustrating that the controversy has resulted in significant job losses in Waterloo.

“It’s important that the public knows the truth about this product.  That’s why we’re going to keep working to do everything possible to get the truth out there.  In the meantime, we’re going to do everything we can to help the workers affected by this closure stay on their feet.”

Last month, Braley called on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to hold hearings into the false claims made in the media about lean, finely textured beef.

UPDATE: Grassley commented further in an interview with Radio Iowa:

Grassley says the U.S.D.A. and the FDA should have defended the product, but didn’t. Grassley says, “They immediately said hot lunch programs didn’t have to purchase it and so that sent a signal if it wasn’t good enough for the hot lunch program, it wasn’t good enough for this supermarket and that supermarket and they all jumped on board.”

After the U.S.D.A. and FDA’s actions, criticism of the beef product on social media went viral. The actions caused irreversible harm to BPI, Grassley says, and the plants – which were temporarily closed in March – are now closed for good.

“So then you try to make up for that harm and there’s not much that the Department of Agriculture can do, even by having four or five governors join in to save the jobs, it didn’t happen,” Grassley says. “It’s just a crime.” […]

Grassley says, “You would think people would be more interested in human beings and preserving jobs than they would be in animal agriculture, but obviously the people that are against animal agriculture that wanted to create this fraud on ABC are more interested in animals than they are people.”

While Grassley says what’s taken place is a crime, he doesn’t expect any charges to be filed. He says: “It’s all within the freedom of speech of our broadcasters.”

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