City officials attempting to avert Brawley plant closure
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BRAWLEY, Calif. – On Feb. 11, incentive package details being proposed to National Beef Packing Co. were released during a Imperial County Board of Supervisors meeting and discussed with Brawley city officials, according to the Imperial Valley Press. National Beef received this proposal on Feb. 10 as outside attempts are being made to prevent the beef plant from closing in April.
Imperial County Board of Supervisors, Imperial Irrigation District (IID), the city of Brawley and the Imperial Valley cattle industry representatives recently formed an ad hoc committee and vowed to address the cattle supply, utility costs and regulatory compliance.
“I have not seen a response to an issue be addressed so quickly.… with the different agencies contributing, it really goes to show people understand that the loss of the industry would be detrimental here,” said George Nava, Brawley councilman and ad hoc committee member.
A conference call with National Beef took place last Tuesday afternoon and the company is still considering the proposal, said County Supervisor Ryan Kelley. Another conference call was scheduled this week.
“I don’t want to get anybody’s hopes up. It’s still a big hurdle,” he said.
Included in the proposed measures for the cattle supply are to increase the head of cattle per year during the next several years. Cattlemen are expected to be able to expand their head of cattle to 481,523 for 2014 and 500,000 for 2015. They further expect to be able to increase the supply by 10 percent for 2016, proposal documents indicate. The condition for this proposal is that National Beef continue the full operation of the plant including slaughter, packing and shipping.
IID and the city of Brawley are also proposing utilities rate reductions. The IID plans to provide $2.1 million in savings per year through an economic development rate reduction. Meanwhile, the city of Brawley proposes to cut National Beef’s water rate and utility tax, which will save the plant about $700,000 per year.
If National Beef agrees to these terms, a commitment for 10 years of operations will be required, according to the proposal documents. If the plant is sold during that time, the conditions will apply to the buyer as well.
The Board of Supervisors also proposes to allocate $3 million in Agriculture Benefit funds to assist with wastewater capital improvements. The Agriculture Benefit funds are used to mitigate the impact of losing acreage to solar development. This is identified as a source of funding, but is not obligated to be used for capital improvements at National Beef.
Although the Regional Water Control Board had fined National Beef more than $1.5 million because it was not in compliance with regulations, the city of Brawley has since requested that $1 million of that fine be applied to capital improvements. Funding for capital improvements could come from other sources , too, the coalition relayed.