NTF chair praises ways turkey industry navigated COVID-19

When the National Turkey Federation (NTF) adjourned its annual meeting one year ago, its members didn’t realize the challenges the industry would face in the coming year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Ron Kardel, 2020 chairman of the National Turkey Federation, praised the work of the federation as it dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on the turkey industry. (National Turkey Federation)
Ron Kardel, 2020 chairman of the National Turkey Federation, praised the work of the federation as it dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on the turkey industry. (National Turkey Federation)

When the National Turkey Federation (NTF) adjourned its annual meeting one year ago, its members didn’t realize the challenges the industry would face in the coming year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking during the NTF Virtual Annual Convention on February 9, Ron Kardel, 2020 NTF chairman and vice chairman of the board for West Liberty Foods, praised the way the organization’s membership quickly acted to navigate the challenges brought on by the pandemic in 2020 and into 2021.

“It’s you, the men and women of the turkey industry who have been working over the past year to keep our businesses afloat, our turkeys healthy and meat cases and refrigerators stocked with protein,” said Kardel. “My time as chairman has been very unusual, but it’s been rewarding to see NTF members come together to tackle the challenges the past year has brought.”

According to Kardel, NTF’s accomplishments within the past year include:

Ensuring poultry industry workers were deemed essential, “so they could continue reporting to work, even as lockdowns and stay-at-home orders were coming into place.”

Working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to streamline the process by which products that would have been destined for foodservice could be relabeled and diverted to retail as restaurants closed or drastically scaled back operations.

Working with the U.S. Department of Transportation to secure the regulatory waivers necessary to make sure food and other inputs could be delivered to farms, the birds could be delivered to the plants, and the finished turkey products could reach customers.

Collaborating with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to develop guidelines to help keep workers safe and plants operating.

Participating in a coalition to assure “a patchwork of local regulations” didn’t unnecessarily close turkey plants.

Working with the USDA and Congress to secure relief for independent and contract growers, and to get turkey included in the food aid distribution under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP)

Being engaged with members and government stakeholders issues of worker health and safety, including working to ensure food workers get priority designation for COVID-19 vaccines.

Other work in 2020

Kardel added that while much of NTF’s work within the past year has been directly related to COVID-19, it remained dedicated to some of its other initiatives it set out as priorities at the conclusion of its 2020 convention.

He said work continues on the NTF Salmonella enumeration project, efforts on the NTF Turkey Smoke outreach program were ongoing, and the federation expanded its web presence, offering more turkey recipes for consumers as they ate more meals at home than they previously did.

View our continuing coverage of the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic.

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