ABERDEEN, S.D. (AP) — The closing of a beef processing plant in Texas could help a fledgling slaughterhouse in northern South Dakota fill out its workforce.
Northern Beef Packers in Aberdeen has sent recruiters to Plainview, Texas, to interview workers laid off at the Cargill Beef plant there, which closes Friday. Northern Beef is seeking to hire 150 more workers for its workforce, which currently has about 400 employees, spokeswoman Laure Swanson told the American News.
"It is like with any new business, we need a mix of experienced workers as well as workers that can be trained," she said. "There hasn't been a beef plant in South Dakota for many years, so we don't have a pool of experienced workers to draw upon."
The $109 million Aberdeen plant has been operating on a limited basis since last fall after years of delays due to issues that ranged from financial problems to lawsuits to flooding. Officials announced earlier this year that they had raised enough money to ramp up to full production.
Northern Beef eventually will process 1,500 cattle a day from the Dakotas, Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota. The closing of the Texas plant could reduce competition for cattle, since the Cargill plant had a slaughter capacity of 4,650 cattle per day.
Cargill Beef, based in Wichita, Kan., announced early this year that it was idling the plant and laying off all 2,000 workers because of a tight cattle supply following years of drought. Officials said they might reopen the plant if cattle numbers rebound in the future.
Warren Rusche, a cattle specialist at South Dakota State University, said that while herds have diminished in recent years in Texas and Oklahoma, they have increased in Nebraska and remained stable in South Dakota.
"I don't want to oversell them (Northern Beef), but the plant closure in Texas and the shift in herd numbers to the north is to their benefit," he said.
Gary Taylor, an SDSU agricultural economist, agreed but said there are many other factors to consider.
"South Dakota is still exporting most of its calves to other states to be fed," he said. "Our numbers are not as strong as they look on paper. Also, if Northern Beef is going to succeed, area producers have to make a change in their marketing.
"There are trends that might favor Northern Beef Packers, but we have to see what happens over time," Taylor said.