Land O’Lakes celebrates 10 years in California; expands Tulare dairy plant

July 8, 2008 07:00 PM
 

Ten years after creating a coast-to-coast dairy presence through its landmark unification with California's Dairyman's Cooperative Creamery Association, Land O'Lakes reports that its dairy production plant in Tulare, Calif., is profitable and expanding with a facility investment of more than $100 million.

 

The vision that united the two cooperatives "is alive and well,” said Land O'Lakes' President and CEO Chris Policinski at a 10-year anniversary celebration July 8 at the Tulare facility. "It's impossible to talk about success in the dairy industry without a major presence in California.”

 

Expanding global markets hold tremendous growth prospects not just for the national dairy foods manufacturer but for the dairy industry as a whole, he added.

 

"We've just scratched the tip of the global market in terms of dairy proteins,” Policinski said.

 

The 1998 merger with DCCA not only gave Land O'Lakes a national presence but added 4 billion pounds of milk and the Tulare plant, the nation's largest dairy processing complex. While having succeeded in one of the nation's top milk sheds, Land O'Lakes' journey in California has "been anything but a straight line,” Policinski said.

 

Over the last three years, the Tulare division sold some assets, paid down $1 billion in debt and cut $100 million in infrastructure costs. The result, Policinski said, is a financially stronger operation that will take its strength and invest in future growth.

 

Processing capacity at the plant will increase by 25% when the expansion is completed by mid-2009. That should boost daily production to 13.5 million pounds of milk, said Bill Schreiber, vice president and general manager of Land O'Lakes' western region. The plant will continue to handle milk from cows treated with rBST as well as from those not treated with the growth hormone, he said.

 

The anniversary event "is a celebration of the hard work by our employees and management to bring us to the point where we are: a profitable organization that provides a long-term home for members' production,” said Tulare dairy producer Cornell Kasbergen, one of 229 co-op members who deliver milk to the Tulare plant.

 

Land O'Lakes' Tulare plant, which employs 550 workers, is the largest single-site milk receiving and processing facility in the U.S. It accounts for about 30% of California's nonfat dry milk production. The site also produces about one-third of the state's butter and about 10% of California's Cheddar and Monterey jack cheese.

 

The 10-year celebration, held amid 108-degree heat, drew some 300 producer members, employees, families and other guests.

 

Catherine Merlo is Western editor for Dairy Today. You can reach her at cmerlo@farmjournal.com.

 

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