The closure of Central Valley Meat Co. after an undercover video showed alleged acts of animal cruelty is also damaging the dairy industry in California’s Valley area. Three congressmen representing the area are calling for the USDA to reopen the plant during the investigation into the company.

The congressmen -- Republicans Devin Nunes of Visalia, Jeff Denham of Turlock and Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield -- proposed in a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack that the Hanford, Calif., plant resume slaughter operations while the government investigates, reports the Fresno Bee. But soon after the congressmen made their plea, the Agriculture Department appeared to reject it.

"The company must submit a corrective action plan detailing how they intend to comply with humane handling regulations before USDA considers allowing them to operate," the USDA said in a statement.

Agriculture Department officials said they will review the proposal and decide on the next step.

Nunes blasted the covert video by Compassion Over Killing as "an act of economic terrorism" and likened it to the firebombing of several trucks at the Harris Farms feedlot near Coalinga in January.

"I'm not saying the plant shouldn't be investigated, but they shouldn't close the plant because someone accused someone of something," Nunes told The Bee. "There's 500 families now without a paycheck."

Central Valley Meat buys nonproductive dairy cows for slaughter. With the plant closed, farmers have taken their cattle to a Cargill plant, which is the only other slaughterhouse in the area. Cargill officials say that the plant has processed at least 1,000 animals that would have gone to Central Valley Meat this week. The oversupply at the Cargill facility has caused prices to fall by 20 cents a pound, meaning some farmers are getting $150 to $200 less per cow.

Central Valley Meat issued a statement that the company has developed an “action plan” with additional video monitoring, increased outside audits of operations and more employee training.

"We believe these steps will address and rectify any and all concerns government inspectors and our customers may have about our production process," the company said in a statement.

Source: Fresno Bee