As the US coronavirus death toll marches closer to 100,000, more than 43 million people are unemployed as President Donald Trump flails over an economic crisis not not seen since the Great Depression
One Minnesota farmer loaded his pigs into a truck and took a shotgun to their heads, another sealed up his barn doors and gassed them.
These are dark days for US farming in which Donald Trump ’s pitiful handling of the coronavirus crisis has left around 10 million hogs facing euthanasia and farmers contemplating suicide.
The prestigious medical journal The Lancet openly attacked the US leader, urging that he is voted out in November.
It warned: “Americans must put a president in the White House who will understand that public health should not be guided by partisan politics.”
Yesterday, it also published a study that found seriously ill coronavirus patients who were treated with the anti-malaria drug the President has claimed to be taking were more likely to die.
Earlier this week Trump said he has been using hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine “every day” for about a week and a half, adding: “I’m still here… what do you have to lose?”
Sales have been soaring despite it not being approved to treat Covid-19.
Trump also offered a garbled response when asked if he had tested for the virus.
He said: “I tested very positively, in another sense, this morning. I tested positively toward negative, right? No, I tested perfectly this morning…meaning I tested negative. But that’s a way of saying it: positively toward the negative.”
He did not wear a mask during public events at a Ford car plant that is manufacturing medical supplies in the city of Ypsilanti, Michigan.
Surrounded by Ford executives who were wearing masks, he said he had put one on out of the view of cameras.
“I didn’t want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it,” he said on Thursday.
He seems increasingly disinterested in saving lives, instead attacking his predecessor Barack Obama.
He has also voiced growing frustration as to why he is not yet holding his rallies, with one prediction this week suggesting he will lose the election by a landslide.
It came after his son Eric claimed Democratic rivals were “milking Covid-19” to deprive his father of campaigning.
“After November 3, coronavirus will magically all of a sudden go away… and everybody will be able to reopen,” he said, before being mocked online.
Trump has continued to push to reopen business, resulting in 15 states having a rise in infections. Arkansas had a 136% uptick in cases.
But asked what would happen if the country is hit by a second wave of infections, he said: “We are going to put out the fires. We’re not going to close the country.”
As the US death toll passes 95,000, more than 43 million people have been left unemployed.
It has created pressures not seen since the Great Depression of the early 1930s with queues of up to six miles at food banks.
This has been compounded by meat processing plants failing to stop the spread of the virus among workers and Trump’s order compelling them to remain open.
But firms that employ tens of thousands across the Midwest have been forced to shutter as employees refuse to put their lives at risk.
This has led to millions of pigs becoming too big for processing plants to handle, forcing farmers to take lethal action they have said is “heartbreaking”.
At least 18,330 processing workers have contracted Covid-19 while 70 have died.
Some factories have reported operating at 70% capacity.
Thousands of farmers are facing bankruptcy. Usually 500,000 pigs a day are slaughtered, but 30% are now left on farms.
In a week, one million pigs are left growing above the 300lb cut-off point.
Greg Boerboom, a pig farmer in Marshall, Minnesota, said: “This will drive people out of farming. There’ll be suicides in rural America.”
Farmer Mike Patterson, 42, of Kenyon, Minnesota, has more than 2,800 pigs nearing 300lb.
Unless he can send them to a processor or sell them he stands to lose £370,000.
Dad-of-four Mike has tried putting the pigs on a diet to slow their growth. Other farmers have raised barn temperatures to make them less interested in eating.
“From the euthanasia standpoint, it’s very difficult,” Mike said. “They are reared for a purpose to feed people. We take a lot of pride in that.
“But pigs are still being born at the sow unit. We can’t stop that process.”
The carcasses are used to make compost or are left to rot in landfills.
So far thousands like Mike haven’t received any of Trump’s £15.7billion coronavirus farmers’ assistance programme.
Supermarket shelves have been left empty, while plant workers remain at risk.
Last month, more than 850 of Smithfield’s 3,100 processing plant staff in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, tested positive leading to the plant temporarily shutting down.
Sixty miles east the JBS processing plant in Worthington, Minnesota, previously suspended its operation.
Workers have been paid a £3.30 hourly bonus since April 20.
As one arrived, he summed up the mood. “Grim. But I have a wife and three children to feed. What can I do?”