In a move to consolidate cheese manufacturing capacity Foremost Farms USA announced plans to permanently close one western Wisconsin plant and idle another "indefinitely."
A company statement said it would "integrate" cheese production from two plants located in western Wisconsin to its plants located in Appleton, Richland Center, Milan and Marshfield.
On June 30, the cooperative's Alma Center plant will close permanently and its Waumandee cheddar cheese plant will be idled indefinitely.
The Alma Center plant, located on Highway FF, produces mozzarella cheese for foodservice markets. The closing will result in the loss of 52 jobs.
About 50 employees will be indefinitely laid off at the Waumandee plant, which produces American-style cheese, primarily cheddar. The plant is located at S1856 County Road U in the Town of Waumandee.
According to Dave Fuhrmann, president of Foremost Farms USA, milk from co-op member-farms will be directed to other dairy plants owned by the cooperative. There will be no changes in terms of milk pick-up, sampling, testing or field service to those members, he said.
"We recognize that this decision has a significant impact on the Alma Center and Waumandee employees and these local communities. Our employees are very dedicated and experienced, and we are working to ease the transition as much as possible by offering severance packages to the individuals who are permanently losing their jobs."
The impacted employees can apply for limited openings at other Foremost Farms facilities.
Alma Center - where the plant will be permanently closed - is in Jackson County, just north of Black River Falls; Waumandee is in Buffalo County, not far from the Mississippi River.
According to Fuhrmann the co-op is evaluating "sustainable product mix opportunities" that will be a good fit for Waumandee's modern infrastructure.
"In recent years, our members have invested over $50 million in our plant system to increase cheese production capacity, maximize throughput and enhance processing capabilities. These investments have grown our processing capacity here in Wisconsin as our members' milk volume has grown," explained Dave Fuhrmann, president of Foremost Farms USA.
"Last year our members marketed a record 6 billion pounds of milk," said Fuhrmann. "Even though we are reducing our plant and employee numbers, we are not downsizing the volume of cheese produced by Foremost Farms or reducing our ability to handle our members' milk. Rather, we plan to further expand Foremost Farms' cheese production from last year's record of 525 million pounds to an even greater level.
"We operate in a competitive, global business environment, and we continually evaluate our operational performance, product offerings and services to ensure that we remain viable and relevant for our member-owners and customers," said Fuhrmann.
Foremost Farms USA (www.foremostfarms.com), headquartered in Baraboo, is a farmer-owned milk processing and marketing cooperative with annual sales of $1.7 billion.
The nation's eighth-largest cooperative and 21st in annual sales among the Top 100 U.S. dairy processors, Foremost Farms is a leading manufacturer and marketer of cheese, specialty whey ingredients, butter and bulk fluid milk to customers around the world.