Iowa’s top agricultural official says he’s very disappointed by the decision to close the John Morrell meatpacking plant in Sioux City. It will eliminate 1,400 jobs at the plant which is also processing some 10,000 head of hogs daily. Iowa Ag Secretary Bill Northey says the closing will bring damage in several areas — to the individuals and to the industry.
“We need the markets out there, we need that capacity as well,” Northey says. “We continue to produce a lot of pork in this state and we need all those markets around to be able to get that pork delivered. It’s a disappointment certainly for those who work in that plant but definitely for those that sell to that plant.” Northey was asked what the agriculture department or other state agency could do to help those who’re impacted by the closing.
“There’s not a lot we can do right now,” Northey says. “I know there’s been a lot of conversations of whether there was an alternative to this, whether there was some modernization or other things that could happen. The company made a decision in what they needed to do to go forward and the challenges that they had in that plant.” Northey remains optimistic that the slack can be taken up.
He says: “I think there will be some discussions around — is there some capacity that somebody else is willing to fill? Is there an opportunity for a newer, more modern plant out there?” Northey is hoping someone will come forward with a processing facility to replace the Sioux City plant. It’s scheduled to close April 20th.
Congressman Steve King, a Republican from Kiron, represents the western Iowa area and issued a statement today on the Morrell closing:
“The John Morrell fresh pork plant has been one of the largest employers in Sioux city for decades. The announcement of is impending closing not only affects the 1,400 employees a the plant, but also other area businesses that serve this facility. Pork producers are also affected at a very tough time in their industry since they will lose a competitive market that is centrally located in the tri-state area.
Given the current economic crisis, it will take the efforts of all local, state, and federal agencies to assist workers losing their jobs. I and my staff stand ready to assist those affected. I am confident in the resilience of western Iowans. It will serve us well as we deal with the loss of a major employer in the Siouxland area.”
Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton contributed to this story.