National Beef rejects offer to remain open

Ad Hoc Committee fields questions

BRAWLEY – The Imperial Valley Ad Hoc Committee met to inform the public that after three weeks of proposals with National Beef, the processing plant chose to continue with their April 4th closing date.


Ryan Kelley, supervisor district 4, was the spokesman of the committee present. Others were Don Wharton and George Nava of the Brawley City Council, Matt Dessert, Imperial Irrigation District director, and cattlemen Bill Plourd of El Toro Exports and Bill Brandenburg, Meloland Cattle Company, absent was Paul Cameron of Mesquite Cattle Feeders.


Kelley mentioned that National Beef never gave any figures they had to have to stay, but said they had lost many millions of dollars yearly at the Brawley plant.


Bill Plourd said the cattlemen met many times, with the ad hoc committee and with all the Imperial Valley Cattle Feeders. Last January 2013, the feedlots had agreed to a reduction of $15 million, on top of that they promised another $9 million reduction in prices.


“We have to be competitive, too. We buy cattle, we have to buy feed. To be successful and continue attracting customers there has to be a profit. Otherwise our customers will leave and ship their cattle where they can make money,” Brandenburg explained to the room.


Matt Desert said they cut their electrical rates to the historical contract that they had given when the plant first opened. This totaled $2.1 million in savings.


Wharton said the city of Brawley spent many hours combing through rates looking for ways to save the plant.


George Nava said that there was still reason to hope. “The door isn’t closed completely. It may just be a crack, but it is still open. We will continue our dialogue with National Beef CEO Terry Wilkinson in Kansas City, Mo. and chief financial officer Simon McGee.” He also added that National Beef did go from saying the plant would be moth-balled, to they would consider any reasonable offer.


Kelley said, “If you know of anybody interested, give me their name. I’ll call them.”


Plourd said that the cattlemen would now adjust their herd size. Many had recently expanded to meet the needs of the market, but now would downsize until the market reached its equilibrium.


Brandenburg added that through all of this the cattlemen remained united in trying to save the cattle industry and this would reverberate all through California, not just the Imperial Valley.


“We have clients that buy bull calf Holsteins from dairies and now that market is disappearing.


Ryan said that they wanted to give special recognition to Senator Ben Hueso and Assemblyman Manuel Perez and how they made calls and met with local officials. In the end, the State of California didn’t move in their regulations.


“In fact, the state didn’t seem to care,” Ryan said.


“But the cattlemen, they did not shy away. They gave their all.”