ROCHESTER, Minn. — After 50 years in Rochester, Associated Milk Producers Inc. is shutting down its cheese processing plant and cutting 75 jobs. Company officials blamed the struggling state of the U.S. dairy industry.
AMPI employees were notified on Nov. 1 that cheese production would end immediately at the plant at 700 First Ave. SE. The cooperative's nonfat dry milk plant in Arlington, Iowa, is also being closed.
Milk being transported to Rochester will be re-routed to other AMPI facilities, including one in Blair, Wis.
Employees who handle the milk transporting and the shipping of cheese still in Rochester storage will remain on staff at least through the end of November.
Sarah Schmidt, vice-president of public affairs for the New Ulm dairy cooperative, cited a number of economic hits to the market as driving this drastic change.
"Several factors have been really hitting dairy farmers for the past five years — tariffs, definitely trade and weather. Several things have piled up on dairy farmers that have caused the loss of dairy farms in Minnesota," Schmidt said. "In Minnesota and Iowa combined, we're down nearly half of our dairy farms in the last 10 years and that's significant."
Minnesota and Iowa have lost nearly half their dairy farms in the last 10 years," she said. "After having a plant not running at prime capacity for so long, it was just time."
Many AMPI workers are represented by Teamsters Local 120. No one from the union was available on Nov. 1 to discuss the AMPI closure.
Rochester Economic Development Inc. listed AMPI as one of the top 40 employers in the area for 2018.
Half of the facility that handles liquid milk processing is leased and staffed by Kemps employees. They will continue operations, she said. No one from Kemps, which has an associated ice cream plant on Rochester's North Broadway, was available to discuss the future of the AMPI facility on Nov. 1.
Schmidt said the Rochester plant is being listed for sale.
AMPI has been part of the Rochester landscape since the farmer-owned cooperative acquired Rochester Dairy in 1969.