Nebraska cheese plant closing

Farm Forum

RAVENNA, Neb. (AP) – The imminent closure of a cheese manufacturing plant in Ravenna will cost the central Nebraska community more than 170 jobs.

Officials at Leprino Foods blame a diminishing dairy supply for the plant’s shutdown, the Kearney Hub reported.

Leprino Foods has operated in Ravenna since 1998, when it purchased the facilities from Dairy Farmers of America. It employs 173 people at the Nebraska plant and produces mainly string cheese for its mozzarella cheese company based in Denver, but also makes some whey products. The company announced on Aug. 29 that the Ravenna plant would shut down Nov. 8.

The plant uses 800,000 to 1 million pounds of dairy a day, said Mike Reidy, senior vice president of corporate affairs at Leprino. During some times of the year, the plant had to supplement the supply with milk from outside of Nebraska, Reidy said.

Nebraska Agriculture Department Director Greg Ibach said Leprino’s closure is a sharp reminder that Nebraska’s economy relies heavily on livestock.

“This is definitely a concern for Ravenna and that region, a concern for the dairy industry,” Ibach said. “In a state like Nebraska, livestock development and economic development go hand-in-hand.”

A 7,500-head dairy proposed in 2008 never came to fruition. The Buffalo County Board of Supervisors approved a special-use permit to allow the large-scale dairy, but the proposal and permit process came under fire from scores of Ravenna-area residents who worried the dairy would hurt air and water quality.