Idaho Growers Still Wondering

Published online: May 07, 2002
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Idaho growers who have lost all or part of their Simplot contracts for this season are still in the “wondering mode” of just what should happen.

Grower’s situations range from those who lost all or part of their contracts, to joint-venture growers who didn’t lose any. In that mix of who was going to grow and who wasn’t was location from the plant and variety.

In addition, growers had seed in the ground, in the process of being planting, and in the storage or bought ready for planting.

Most caught in-between are wondering if it will benefit them to go ahead and plant and take their chances on next season’s market, or take their losses up front, savings planting and input expenses. Many are planting, hoping for the best.

Ideas for action range from a cooperative purchase of the Heyburn plant by growers to finally giving up and getting out of the business.

The April 2003closure will have a great impact in the Burley, ID, area, as it will eventually mean the loss of 649 jobs, 470 of which will be laid off this fall. In addition, it is expected that half of the plant’s 44 salaried positions will be eliminated this year.

Simplot plans to close two production lines this fall, running only two smaller lines producing batter-coated fries, wedges and other specialty products.

James Munyon, Simplot Food Group president, said the closure decision was simply one of over capacity, slowing growth, plus running one of the company’s oldest plants. The plant was constructed in 1960.

No mention was made about moving production to Simplot’s new plant in Manitoba, Can., which is under construction.

Fred Zerza, spokesman, said the closure will not affect the company’s other Pacific Northwest plants located in Caldwell, Nampa and Aberdeen, ID; Hermiston, OR, and Moses Lake and Othello, WA.