By: Kristen Oaks
FARMERVILLE, LA– In terms of an economic disaster, this is a category five.
Farmerville Mayor, Stein Baughman, said the idling of Pilgrim’s Pride Processing Plant will have “catastrophic impact: it’s our Katrina, It’s our ground zero.”
Baughman said the entire area will be affected by the closure.
“This is a two billion dollar business in the state,” Baughman said. “There will be a trickle down affect- my goodness, our schools will be affected, our sheriff’s dept., and everyone they pay taxes to.”
The plant employs over 1,300 workers, and over 300 independent contract growers depend on the plant and hatchery. Unlike the plant employees, the growers have no unemployment benefits or compensation available to them.
After selling his last flock of chickens, grower Kirk Townsend is officially out of the business.
“When we sold out Tuesday night, when the last chicken went out of the house reality set in- this is it,” Townsend said. “I’ve got to find a job, this is my only source of income. And I’ve lost it now. I’ve got one check coming, and that’s the end of the road for me.”
Area growers are left with few options. Most rely solely on the poultry industry for their income and have invested thousands, some millions, of dollars in their farms.
“We put out our money in a good faith agreement with this company to build these houses with the idea that they were going to keep them going,” grower Stephen Wade said. “We had contracts, but once you build you have no say in your contacts at all; your at their mercy at all times. It just doesn’t seem fair.”