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Pilgrim’s Pride to shutter Farmerville poultry plant

February 27, 2009

Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M., confirmed that Pilgrim’s Pride is closing its Farmerville poultry processing plant and will lay off about 1,294 employees.
Also affected by the closure are 300 independent contract growers who raise chickens to market size, a hatchery in Athens, a hatchery and live operations office in Choudrant and a feed mill in Arcadia.

Pilgrim’s Pride will also close its plant in El Dorado, Arkansas, another outlet for Louisiana poultry producers. 

Pilgrim’s Pride will continue to operate its plant in Natchitoches.

  Poultry competitor House of Raeford will also continue its operations in north-central Louisiana.

“The closing of the Farmerville and the El Dorado plants are a major blow to our Louisiana farm economy,” Strain said. “Poultry farming is a large scale operation and is subject to economics like any other business. 

“Pilgrim’s Pride has been particularly hard hit by drastic fluctuations in fuel and feed costs and a weakened consumer demand.

“Economics notwithstanding, we will do everything we can to help the hard-working people who will lose their jobs because of the plant closings and get poultry interests re-established in the state as soon as possible and our chicken farmers and the industry that supports it back on track.”

In addition to the Farmerville and El Dorado operations, Pilgrim’s Pride is also closing its poultry operation in Douglas, Georgia. Around 3,000 employees, including 430 independent contract growers who supply birds to the three plants will lose their jobs.  

Don Jackson, president and chief executive officer of Pilgrim’s Pride said weak demand for chicken is the reason for the closure.

“Simply put, we are producing too much commodity chicken in what is a very weak market,” Jackson said. “The actions announced today will reduce our production of low-value, commodity meat that is a financial drain on the company without affecting any of our core business lines or customers.” 

Jackson indicated that the layoffs will occur within the next 60 to 75 days.

According to the 2007 Louisiana Summary compiled by the LSU AgCenter, poultry production is the largest animal agricultural industry in the state and is second only to forestry in total income production for all agricultural commodities.

In 2007, 460 Louisiana growers produced 1.06 billion pounds of broiler meat with a gross value of $795 million.

The gross value for all poultry production in Louisiana was $884.1 million in 2007. The total value of poultry production in the state was $1.733 billion.