Dakota Premium Foods in South St. Paul halts production

Mayor Baumann: 'We are surprised'

Dakota Premium Foods announced July 2 that the South St. Paul beef processing facility would halt production for an undetermined amount of time. The closure affects about 300 employees.

It's the last facility of its kind in the city that used to be a hub for livestock trading and processing centers. American Foods Group, which has owned Dakota Premium Foods since 1989, cited "an extremely short cattle supply" as the reason for the stop in production at the meatpacking facility located at 425 Concord St. S.

"We regret that the current limited cattle supplies, the smallest numbers since the early 1950s, has forced us to make this very difficult decision," said spokesman Don Mehesan in a written statement. "Having to layoff our valuable employees is the most difficult part of this decision knowing how this will impact them, their families and the community as a whole."

He said the company would make available its staff, along with other agencies, to help employees deal with the layoff period.

"Our hope is that the available cattle supplies will increase in the coming months," Mehesan said. "However, we are unable at this time to determine how long the plant will remain closed. We will be exploring all of our options during this time, including major plant renovations to improve productivity and profitability."

American Foods Group has locations in five states in the Midwest, including Wisconsin, South Dakota and Ohio.

According to its website, its the fifth largest beef processing company in the country with more than 4,000 employees. The company reportedly ships 4 million pounds of beef a day and exports to over 38 countries.

South St. Paul Mayor Beth Baumann said the city plans to collaborate with the company, the local chamber of commerce and the Dakota-Scott Workforce Center to assist the idled employees.

She said the city didn't expect the shutdown.

"We are surprised and concerned about the closing of Dakota Premium," Baumann said. "We know this is a devastating loss for the employees, all 300 of them, and a loss for the community."

What it means for the future of the company and the city is unknown, she said.

"Right now, we're not sure exactly what's going to happen," the mayor said. "It is a loss, especially for the employees, but also for the city of South St. Paul."

Four local legislators - DFL Reps. Dan Schoen and Rick Hansen and Sens. Katie Sieben and Jim Metzen -- released a joint statement Wednesday:

"We will be following up with the company official and local leaders to find any possible solutions for the workers who are impacted by this closure."

--Kaitlyn Roby


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