CARTHAGE, Mo. — Butterball LLC announced on Wednesday that it will cut its Carthage plant workforce by a little more than half.
A news release that Butterball sent out announced that 450 people out of a current workforce of 850 at the plant will be laid off over several months starting no sooner than March 1, 2021.
“Butterball is announcing significant changes to the manufacturing operations at its Carthage, Missouri, processing plant as the company works to balance its operations at the facility to better align with the products consumers demand,” the company said in its release. “Long-term adverse conditions in the commodities market, where Butterball has routinely sold excess protein produced at the (Carthage) facility, has resulted in the need to ramp down certain production processes at this location.”
Butterball President and CEO Jay Jandrain said the company is working with the union and workers to cushion the impact of the layoffs on workers.
“We are making every effort to provide support to our team members during a challenging time by providing a variety of paths to lessen the impact, including the opportunity to relocate to other Butterball facilities and severance packages,” Jandrain said. “In spite of the ongoing market pressures that led to this decision, it was important to our leadership team that we find ways to carry our team members and their families through the holidays and provide continued employment through at least March of 2021.”
The company said no further cuts were planned at Carthage at this time and that the plant will remain a significant employer in the city.
Carthage Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mark Elliff said that according to an employment survey the chamber conducted earlier in 2020, the Butterball plant in is the third-largest employer in Carthage, behind only Leggett & Platt and Schreiber Foods.
Elliff said it’s never good when a large employer lays off so many workers but that other employers in Carthage have been seeking workers.
“That’s 400 people available for jobs with local businesses who are looking for employees,” Elliff said. “Hopefully the the Workforce Investment Board and other state agencies will work quickly to provide retraining help and other assistance for these workers as well.”
Butterball said the announcement “in no way reflects the hard work and dedication of the company’s team members, nor is it a reaction to the recent global health care crisis.”
“As part of this change, jobs will be added at our Huntsville, Arkansas, and Ozark, Arkansas, facilities,” the company said. “All of our impacted team members are invited and encouraged to apply for openings at Ozark and Huntsville as well as our other facilities. We plan to identify resources for outplacement and retraining for any impacted team members.”
Butterball said the plant will continue to produce ground turkey and turkey burgers using raw material produced at other Butterball facilities.
It said the change will affect a limited number of turkey growers in the Midwest but that the company does not expect a reduction of Carthage-area growers. Butterball said some growers may be asked to switch from growing toms to growing hens.
A call to the union representing Butterball workers for comment was not returned Wednesday.
The announcement comes at the end of a tumultuous year in business and employment in Carthage.
At the start of the novel coronavirus pandemic in March, several employers, including Leggett & Platt and Justin Boot, shut down operations and laid off thousands of workers. Many of the workers have returned to the jobs at Leggett & Platt, but Justin Boot announced in July it was shutting down its Carthage plant permanently, leaving 170 employees looking for jobs.
Things had started looking up recently with the announcement that another boot manufacturer, the Belleville (Illinois) Shoe Manufacturing Co. was looking to buy the former Justin Boot plant and hire more than 150 workers and add $5.1 million annually to the local payroll. Tax breaks for that deal were granted Tuesday night by the Carthage City Council.