Sunday, November 18, 2018
 Land O'Lakes Cheese Plant to Close; 80 Jobs Lost  

By Robert Rodriguez

Minnesota-based dairy processor Land O' Lakes is closing its cheese plant in Tulare and laying off 80 employees.

The competition for milk among the region's larger dairy processors played a role in the company's decision, milk industry officials said.

"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 CEO, Dairy Foods Industrial. "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."

The employees were told of the plant's closure Tuesday morning.

Tulare and Kings counties are home to several major milk, cheese and butter processors, including California Dairies Inc., Leprino and Saputo Cheese USA.

William Van Dam, CEO of the Sacramento-based Alliance of Western Milk Producers, said Land O' Lakes had a challenge in getting an adequate supply of milk for its cheese plant.

"Some of the cheese plants they compete against can handle five times more milk than they can," Van Dam said. "And milk goes where there is room to be processed."

Tulare Mayor Craig Vejvoda said the news came as a blow to the community.

"We know these are tough economic times, especially for the dairy industry," Vejvoda said. "But it is very disappointing news to lose 80 jobs."

Land O' Lakes plans to wind down production at the cheese plant later this year but will continue to operate its butter factory on the same site.

No decision has been made about the future of the cheese plant, officials said.

Land O'Lakes took over the Tulare facility when it merged with Dairyman's Cooperative Creameries Association in 1998. Land O'Lakes continues to operate a cheese manufacturing plant in Orland in Northern California and several other locations in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Source: Fresno Bee (CA)


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