BRAWLEY – At their regular meeting of Tuesday, Febuary 4, the Brawley City Council discussed the closing of National Beef on April 4.
Tuesday was a day filled with meetings all over the Valley with the Imperial County Board of Supervisors, the IID Board of Directors, and the Brawley City Council.
All meetings were focused on the plant closing and the effects that will be felt throughout the Valley.
Feedlot owners, area cattlemen, and local business owners addressed the closing and how every business in the Valley would be affected directly or indirectly.
Millions of dollars are at stake and livelihoods will be affected by the closing.
The City of Brawley received a hand delivered notice on Friday addressed to Mayor Don Campbell about the closing from National Beef.
“After much conversation among Council members and Imperial County staff,” said Mayor Pro-Tempore George Nava, “we scheduled a meeting Friday and looked at potential options and repercussions. I spoke with National Beef General Manager Brian Webb and asked him if there were a chance that National Beef could reconsider the closing if certain criteria were met. The answer was yes. That was the good news. We had a subsequent meeting Monday.”
It was decided during these meetings that an ad hoc committee would be formed to address the National Beef closure and to come up with a plan or ‘package deal’ in an attempt to stop the closure of National Beef and make it more profitable, averting an economic disaster to the Imperial County economy.
The Imperial County Board of Supervisors appointed Supervisors Ryan Kelley and Ray Castillo to the committee.
The IID appointed Board of Directors President Jim Hanks and Director Steve Benson to the committee.
The Brawley City Council appointed Mayor Pro-Tempore George Nava and Councilman Don Wharton to the committee.
Brawley will be the lead entity in the ad hoc committee with City Manager Rosanna Bayon Moore as point person.
The closing is less than 60 days away, but in reality, it has already begun.
With the announcement of the closing, National Beef had to notify the unions that represent its workers of the decision, as well as many other legal obligations.
Feedlots are now experiencing cancellations of cattle deliveries. Some cattle are being moved to other locations out of the Valley.
The press release from Friday cited lack of supply as the major reason for the closing.
The inadequate cattle supply is being diminished even further with the news of the closure.
When asked if there were an absolute no-turning-back date, National Beef General Manager Brian Webb said 21 days and that was Friday, according to Nava.
“The decision to close is very complex and complicated,” said Nava. “Mr. Webb said that the three main issues are regulatory, supply, and utility costs.”
“Before the committee comes up with a plan or package that will be offered to National Beef, we are hoping for a face to face meeting with them to find out what exactly they want or have issues with that we can address,” said Nava.
The Imperial County Board of Supervisors suggested many avenues to pursue including using Public Funds, state grants, etc, to help alleviate compliance issues National Beef has with the State of California.
The IID Board of Directors decided to go ahead and look into lowering power costs back to 2011 figures for the plant.
It was noted that state regulations are forcing businesses of all kinds out of California to other states and out of the country.
California State Assemblyman Manuel Perez was at one of the meetings and pledged to do whatever he could to stop the closing.
IID director Steve Benson said he was going to speak to the Region Water Quality Control Board directly about their issues with National Beef and the City of Brawley.
Leucadia National Corporation, which owns 79% of National Beef, stated in their 2012 Annual Report that they lost Walmart as a client for their case-ready products. Although new business is being sought, they may not be able to replace that large of a client which adds to their financial losses.
“We need to gather all of the facts, decide what we can do as an agency, and bring that to the ad hoc committee,” said Council member Don Wharton. “Time is of the essence.”