Vernon to Lose 2,000 Jobs When Farmer John Meatpacking Plant Closes

The facility will close its its only California site next year “due to the escalating cost of doing business” in the state

The Farmer John meatpacking plant, one of the largest employers in the city of Vernon, will close its only California site next year “due to the escalating cost of doing business” in the state.

According to Smithfield Foods, the parent company of Farmer John, the plant will close in early 2023.

“We look at our costs on a per hog, per head basis, and the cost to process hogs in our Vernon facility, I can’t give you a precise figure but it is exorbitantly higher than the cost to process those hogs in other facilities where we operate,” Smithfield Foods corporate affairs VP Jim Monroe told Fox Los Angeles.

He added that the shutdown won’t impact customers, and that the company will continue “providing the great, healthy, nutritious products that Farmer John customers have come to expect” but from another location, the Los Angeles Times reports.

“We are grateful to our team members in the Western region for their dedication and invaluable contributions to our mission. We are committed to providing financial and other transition assistance to employees impacted by this difficult decision,” Smithfield Chief Operating Officer Brady Stewart said in the statement.

The closure leaves roughly 2,000 workers to wonder what’s next.

Monroe told the Times that Smithfield is providing a $7,000 bonus to employees to continue to work until the closure, along with a severance package and job placement assistance. The company reached an agreement with the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union—the union representing the meatpackers in Vernon—which issued a statement, saying that it hopes another operator will take over the plant and “the highly trained and stable workforce.”

Still, Vernon is “saddened” by the shutdown, City Manager Carlos Fandino, told the Times. Vernon Chamber of Commerce President Marisa Olguin said that the announcement “represents another nail in California’s coffin, indicative of yet another prominent business set to leave the state.”

The Vernon plant has been the target of repeated demonstrations by animal rights activists over its treatment of hogs. Some activists have called on lawmakers to ban slaughterhouses and factory farms in the state.

The facility has also been penalized for its treatment of workers. California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health fined Smithfield Foods more than $60,000 for safety violations that exposed workers to COVID in 2020 and caused several to be hospitalized, KTLA reports.

California isn’t the only state losing its Farmer John plant. Smithfield Foods said it will also “decrease its sow herd in Utah” and that it is exploring options to exit its farms in Arizona as well.

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