Foremost Farms USA will close production plants in Plover and Athens by the end of the year, cutting the jobs of 118 employees.
The Baraboo-based dairy cooperative notified the state Department of Workforce Development about the closures and layoffs, saying both plants will be fully and permanently closed in December.
A spokesperson for the company, who was unidentified in an email response to the Stevens Point Journal, said Foremost Farms decided to close the two locations after exploring and carefully considering many options.
"This decision is not a reflection on the performance of the employees and leaders in these locations," the spokesperson said. "We recognize their dedication to the cooperative and their communities. However, the Foremost Farms Board of Directors and leadership agreed it is in the best interest for the performance of the cooperative as a whole to discontinue operations in these locations."
The spokesperson also pointed to production limitations in the two aging facilities, as well as labor challenges that created "financial inefficiencies." It would take a significant amount of investments to bring the plants up to date with the technology needed, according to the Foremost Farms email to the Journal.
The company will divert milk from the cooperative's member-owners' farms and move operations to other plants that are newer or have the technology needed to continue to fill customer needs, the spokesperson said.
Foremost farms offering assistance for employees looking for new positions
Foremost Farms has not scheduled a final closing date, and a team of employees from several departments will manage the transition, the email said. All employees will be able to continue working until the day the plants close, and Foremost Farms is encouraging affected employees to consider applying for positions at other locations within the company.
The spokesperson said the company will also offer assistance to help employees find new positions in other companies in the area.
According to the Foremost Farms website, the plant at 2541 Foremost Road in Plover produces a wide portfolio of products, including infant formula and confectionery and bakery ingredients.
The cheese plant at 2294 Randall Road in Athens makes mozzarella, provolone and asadero cheeses.
What is a dairy cooperative?
Foremost Farms is a dairy cooperative, owned and controlled by the dairy farmers who produce the milk used by the company. The company uses more than 6 billion pounds a year to manufacture cheese, butter, whey products and other dairy ingredients.
Foremost Farms USA was created in 1995 when dozens of individual dairy companies and dairy cooperatives consolidated to create one company that had 5,300 farmer members in 25 locations across Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin.
The company has nine other plants in Appleton, Baraboo, Clayton, Greenville, Lancaster, Marshfield, Reedsburg, Richland Center and Sparta.
This article originally appeared on Stevens Point Journal: Foremost Farms USA announces Plover, Athens closures and layoffs