Minnesota pork plant could soon close, costing 1,000 jobs

WINDOM, Minn. (AP) — Owners of a pork processing plant in southern Minnesota said more than 1,000 people are in danger of losing their jobs if a new owner for the plant is not found soon.

HyLife Foods filed notice with the state this week that its efforts to improve business at its Windom plant have been unsuccessful, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.

In a memo to the Minnesota Department of Employment & Economic Development, HyLife said it has faced challenges from inflation, high grain costs, foreign exchange rates and the plant’s operational losses.

“For some time now, the company has been exploring several strategic options that would have enabled it to continue go-forward operations despite these financial challenges. Unfortunately, so far, these efforts have not been successful,” the letter says.

Minnesota businessman Glen Taylor and other investors bought the former beef-packing plant in 2016. Canada-based HyLife bought 75% ownership of the plant from Taylor Corp., which is based in Mankato, in 2020.

Glen Taylor, who owns the Minneapolis Star Tribune, sold his remaining ownership of the pork plant earlier this year.

The Windom plant can process 1.2 million hogs annually — about a third of HyLife’s processing capacity.

“Our vision, investments, and strong community involvement are a testament that we intended to be here for the long run,” HyLife CEO Grant Lazaruk said in a statement Tuesday. “This is an extremely hard week, and we are unquestionably sad. We are doing our best to share the information we currently have.”

The company said 1,007 would be laid off if the plant closes. Like many processing plants in rural Minnesota, immigrants are a major portion of the workforce. None of them are represented by a union.

Layoffs could begin Monday and end as late as June 2.

Pork producers are facing pressures from lower pork prices at the same time as feed and energy costs have increased.

On March 1, the nation had 72.9 million head of hogs — slightly up from a year earlier, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s quarterly report. Nearly a decade ago, the nation had 10 million fewer hogs.

Minnesota is second only to Iowa in pork production in the U.S.

“Those pigs in those barns? (Farmers are) going to have to find out where they’re going to take them,” said Ted Winter, a Nobles County farmer and executive committee member with Minnesota Farmers Union.

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