Plainview beef processing plant going idle

Reported by: Henry Ramos
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Updated: 1/18/2013 4:33 am
An unexpected move from Cargill Meat Solutions catching the Plainview community by surprise.  The drought and dwindling cattle supply forcing the beef processing plant into idle mode.

About 2,000 employees are dealing with reality they're jobless. Many of them thought it was just another Thursday on the job.

Cargill Employee Mary Garcia said "it was a surprise. Now we just have to take it one day at at time."

Nick Ramirez has worked at Cargill for 29 years.

"We are shocked," he said. "I don't know what to say. We are shocked."

When employees showed up for work they were greeted with a letter stating they would lose their job.

Cargill employee, Robert Flores, said, "We thought it was joke. Until they pulled us off production and told us to go to the conference room and they told us."

Cargill's Director of Communications, Mike Martin, said, "We are closing the Plainview beef processing facility effective February 1st of this year. The decision was a very difficult and painful one to have to make."

Martin said the dwindling cattle supply due to the drought is to blame.

"High input costs such as feed and as cattle producers have liquidated their cattle herds," he said. "There are fewer and fewer cattle to be harvested in this region.  We are facing a situation where we have limited cattle supply and overcapacity to process cattle."

Martin said the U.S. cattle herd is at its lowest level since 1952. He said the likelihood of that turning around is slim.

"We are using that term idle because we are going to retain both the plant and the property," Martin said. "It is not for sale, with the hopes of one day there will be an increase in the cattle herd and the need for additional processing capacities. We don't see that happening for a number of years."

The company will continue to operate processing plants in Friona, Dodge City, Kansas and Fort Morgan, Colorado.  

Sylvia Ponce's husband has worked at the Plainview plant for many years.

"I have two kids and one on the way," she said. "This is our only income. I mean what are we supposed to do now? It is just amazing to know that's it. You give us a two weeks notice to figure our lives out from here."

"That's the hard part is starting all over especially at my age," Flores said.  "I just bought my first brand new vehicle after all my kids graduated and went off to college."

It's not only the employees that are impacted. Executive Director with the Plainview Hale County Industrial Foundation, Kevin Carter, said this is a huge loss.

"It's just a shot to the gut," he said.

Carter said Plainview's Mayor, the Hale County Judge, rep's with Lubbock and Plainview's Workforce Solutions huddled to figure out what is next.

"We are going to try to put together a job fair that will be here locally," he said. "We don't have a date yet, but it will be after the Feb 1st date."

The employees affected by the decision will be provided support as well as assistance finding and filling open positions at other Cargill locations or with other employers.

About Cargill:

Cargill is an international producer and marketer of food, agricultural, financial and industrial products and services. Founded in 1865, the privately held company employs 142,000 people in 65 countries. Cargill helps customers succeed through collaboration and innovation, and is committed to sharing its global knowledge and experience to help meet economic, environmental and social challenges wherever it does business. 
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