NEW ULM, Minn. (KTTC) – Associated Milk Producers Inc. announced Friday that it is closing its Rochester cheese plant.
In the same announcement, AMPI said it will be closing a nonfat dry milk plant in Arlington, Iowa.
In a news release, leaders said “the decision stems from the continued decline in dairy farm numbers and milk production in the region.”
AMPI said the closure of the Rochester plant will impact 75 employees. AMPI said the employees have been informed. The company also said it “is working with them to provide access to resources, training and opportunities to apply for available jobs at AMPI facilities.”
AMPI also said “milk previously processed at AMPI’s Arlington and Rochester locations will now be routed to other plants in the surrounding area, including AMPI’s Blair, Wis., cheese plant.”
See the full announcement here.
In mid-October, KTTC received an anonymous tip saying quote: “AMPI closing Rochester cheese plant before end of year. Also closing Arlington Iowa plant. CEO does not want to reveal. Wants to string employees along. Employees need to be notified before spending for before spending for Christmas. Not fair not to tell them. Crappy leadership. They have been working with real estate agents in Rochester for months.”
On Oct. 18, KTTC crews spoke with AMPI Public Affairs Vice President Sarah Schmidt, who did not confirm the rumor – however, employees at the time did speak to production slowing down at the Rochester facility.
Friday afternoon, AMPI announced that the Rochester Cheese plant is done producing the cheese Friday and the Arlington nonfat dry milk plant is done Saturday. All employees were notified in meetings Friday.
Schmidt said Friday that production had been slowing at both facilities leading up to the closures – and that the loss of Minnesota dairy farms ultimately sealed the decision.
“When you lose dairy farms that impacts local communities,” Schmidt said. “That impacts local communities that impacts the abilities for processing plants to continue in production.”
Schmidt adds that since 2008, Minnesota has lost 40 percent of its dairy farms – and it Iowa, 50 percent. She says the company is working with individuals one on one to make the next move, offering opportunities to apply for available jobs at other AMPI factories.
KTTC found long time Rochester AMPI employee Paul Livingston in the parking lot as he was leaving his last shift.
“Lot and lots of sadness,” Livingston said. “Many relationships – some of these people have worked together – I’ve been here 35 years. Some of us have worked together here since we were virtually kids and that. And your life is getting turned upside down.”
Despite the grim news just before the holiday season, Livingston adds that while it’s an unfortunate situation, he remains positive in the fact that new opportunities lie ahead.
AMPI formed 50 years ago. Following Friday’s announcement, it now has eight manufacturing locations.