BATESVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Pilgrim's Pride Corp. has announced plans to stop production at its poultry processing plant in Batesville, and officials said a deal is in the works to sell it to another food company.

Pilgrim's Pride spokesman Cameron Bruett said the company notified workers Wednesday that it would stop production in Batesville in 60 days. Bruett said the plant was Pilgrim's smallest operation in the U.S. and closing it was part of a broader corporate strategy.

More than 470 people work at the plant in Batesville. Pilgrim's also operates a plant in De Queen that employs nearly 1,500 workers. In recent years, Pilgrim's Pride has closed processing plants in Clinton and El Dorado.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Thursday that Rogers-based poultry company OMP Foods is in discussions to purchase the Batesville facility. An OMP Foods spokesman declined to comment on the deal but said representatives from its subsidiary, Ozark Mountain Poultry, would visit next week to distribute job applications.

Independence County Economic Development Inc., the county judge and the quorum court have approved a local incentive package to encourage OMP to rehire Pilgrim's employees and resume operations at the plant, said Larry Jones, director of the economic development group.

"We will be working with the prospective buyer, the AEDC (Arkansas Economic Development Commission), plant labor unions, and other community stakeholders to retain the maximum number of jobs and restart the plant as soon as possible," Jones said.

Arkansas Economic Development Commission spokesman Joe Holmes said the commission is working closely with local officials to find a buyer for the Batesville plant.

OMP Foods is a family-owned company that employs nearly 600 workers throughout its various operations. Ozark Mountain Poultry produces more than 1.5 million pounds of hand deboned, antibiotic-free poultry a week for the restaurant industry and its consumer brand, Forester Farmer's Market.


Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette,