San Luis Valley Colorado potato growers took a heavy hit when it was announced that the valley's only processing plant will be shut down because of high natural gas prices.
The flake plant, located in Center, CO, was an important part of the southern Colorado potato industry and employed 65.
Sunshine Potato Flakes, only two years old, and financed through the San Luis Valley Development Resource Group for $2.8 million, provided jobs for one of the state's poorest cities.
The plant bought 3,000 cwt of potatoes a day from local growers. The plant produced one million cwt per year. The combination of low prices for flakes and a 10-cent-per-pound drop in commercial baking flour that the plant also produced, also contributed to the closure.
Officials said they could not afford the cost of gas to operate the plant. Even if the plant received the potatoes for free, they still could not make it pay out.
The plant's closure adds insult to injury because growers produced a record crop which they sell on the fresh open market and prices are way below the cost of production.
The natural gas bill for the plant in October was $35,000. January's bill was expected to be $140,000. Officials said it was very sad to tell their employees that it was over. They have no promise the plant will ever re-open.