Expecting a decline in its California milk volume this year, national dairy processor Land O'Lakes announced April 27 it will close its cheese manufacturing plant in Tulare, Calif., sometime in the last half of 2010.
With less milk for the plant, the Minneapolis-based cooperative said "it was beneficial to shift milk shipments to Tulare's core butter manufacturing.” Land O'Lakes had recently invested in the Tulare facility's butter manufacturing operations.
"Idling the Tulare cheese plant was a difficult decision that was driven by a variety of factors,” said Jerry Kaminski, Land O'Lakes executive vice president and chief operating officer in the company's Dairy Foods Industrial division. "We recognize that the plant's idling will impact employees and the Tulare community, and we are working to ease the transition as much as possible.”
Approximately 80 employees at the plant will be affected.
The Tulare cheese plant will ramp down its production lines sometime in the latter half of the year, the co-op said in Tuesday's news release. Land O'Lakes will continue to operate its butter manufacturing facilities on the site and has not made a decision regarding the future use of the cheese plant.
During a January 2010 interview with Dairy Today, longtime Land O'Lakes executive Alan Pierson said his company counted 275 California members, who produced about 15% of the state's annual 40-billion-pound milk production.
Pierson also said at that time that Land O'Lakes "is definitely here [in California] for the long term.”
The Tulare cheese plant produces several varieties of cheese for industrial food manufacturing customers.
Land O'Lakes assumed ownership of the Tulare manufacturing facility when it merged with Dairyman's Cooperative Creameries Association in 1998. Land O'Lakes continues to operate a cheese manufacturing plant in Orland, Calif., and several other locations in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Land O'Lakes is offering affected employees access to its Employee Assistance Program, which offers counseling and other referrals. The company will be working with the Teamsters Union regarding the transition.
Land O'Lakes, Inc. is a national, farmer-owned food and agricultural cooperative with annual sales of $10 billion. Land O'Lakes does business in all 50 states and more than 50 countries.
Catherine Merlo is Western editor for Dairy Today. You can reach her at email@example.com.