A fire in a Tyson Foods beef packaging plant in Holcomb, Kan. could have lasting impacts on the beef production markets.

The plant had approximately 1,200 employees working that night, with 400 working the harvest shift, when a fire broke out in the plant's box shop Friday night. No injuries were reported and all employees were safely evacuated. According to a Monday release from Tyson, “work to clear damage has already begun.”

The plant is working to transition processing to alternative nearby sites in order to keep up with the processing schedule. Tyson Foods owns six plants in Kansas alone, and will transfer much of the production to those locations during the rebuilding period. Cattle markets were lower Monday and Tuesday as concerns about processing capacity in light of the fire popped up among traders and producers alike. A Tyson spokesman tells Agri-Pulse the company doesn't release production capacity for competitive purposes, but the Kansas Livestock Association says the plant could process about 6,000 head of cattle per day. 

In a letter to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, National Cattlemen's Beef Association chief lobbyist Colin Woodall asked CFTC to "keep an even closer eye on the cattle markets to ensure that no market participant tries to use the uncertainty" brought about by the plant's shutdown and reconstruction "to manipulate or illegally take advantage of the situation. We do not have any accusations to make, we simply ask that CFTC remain vigilant."

All active, full-time employees at the plant have been guaranteed pay from Tyson during the reconstruction. Steve Stouffer, group president of Tyson Fresh Meats, said “team members may be called on to work during this time to help with clean-up and other projects,” but will still be guaranteed pay whether or not they're called into work.

Tyson Foods owns six plants in Kansas alone and is by far the largest employer in Kansas' Finney County. According to the Kansas Department of Commerce, the Holcomb location was the sixth largest employer in the state. 

 For more news go to www.agri-pulse.com.