Smithfield Foods will close their Vernon, California, Farmer John processing plant this month, according to a statement from the company. Smithfield Foods announced in June 2022 that they would be ceasing operations at the California plant at the beginning of this year while simultaneously reducing Western region production. The company plans to decrease its sow herd in Utah and exit farms in Arizona and California.
Industry sources estimate the facility's daily processing capacity was roughly 8,000 to 10,000 company-owned hogs each day. Customers in California will continue to be serviced with products from existing facilities in the Midwest.
The company said they "provided transition assistance to all team members" and "met with employees who expressed interest in employment at other Smithfield locations," in a statement to Agri-Pulse.
California relies almost entirely on out-of-state hogs to fulfill their needs. The state’s Proposition 12 legislation passed in 2018 requires sows to have a minimum of 24 square feet of space per animal. The law is awaiting a final decision from the Supreme Court after the American Farm Bureau Federation and National Pork Producers Council presented oral arguments last fall.
A decreased national hog herd observed in the USDA quarterly hogs and pigs reports, disease risk from African Swine Fever and lower market prices are all additional factors impacting the nation’s pork producers. USDA estimates that in December, national hog inventory was down 1.8% reaching its lowest level since 2016.
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This item has been updated to include additional information on the closure of the facility.