SMITHFIELD, VA. — Smithfield Foods Inc. announced on June 10 that it would cease harvest and processing operations at its Farmer John Vernon, Calif., plant in early 2023.
Simultaneously, the company stated that it would decrease the sow herd in Utah and explore options to exit farms in Arizona and California.
Smithfield explained that it is taking the steps due to the escalating cost of doing business in California. The company added that it would serve customers in California with its Farmer John brand and other brands and products from existing facilities in the Midwest.
In a separate notice, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Local 770 said it was ready to negotiate a new contract this week when a Farmer John representative announced that the Vernon plant would be closed next year.
Smithfield said it would provide transition assistance to all impacted employees, including relocation options to other company facilities and farms and retention incentives to ensure business continuity until early next year. The company added that it reached an agreement with the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the International Union of Operating Engineers as part of its plan to close the Vernon facility.
“We are grateful to our team members in the Western region for their dedication and invaluable contributions to our mission,” said Brady Stewart, chief operating officer of Smithfield. “We are committed to providing financial and other transition assistance to employees impacted by this difficult decision.”
In recent years, Farmer John dealt with various challenges, including Cal/OSHA fines stemming from COVID-19 outbreaks and losing the Dodger Dogs contract that supplied hot dogs to fans at Dodger Stadium.
The Vernon facility has been in operation since 1931. Smithfield purchased the plant, which was known as Clougherty Packing, from Hormel Foods Corp. in 2017 for $145 million.