Pilgrim’s Pride: Deal reached for La. plant

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 21, 2009

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. on Friday said it has agreed to sell its poultry processing plant in northern Louisiana to Foster Farms for $80 million. Half that cost, though, will be paid by the state.

Pittsburg, Texas-based Pilgrim’s Pride, which in December filed for reorganization under Chapter 11, said the deal is subject to approval of a federal bankruptcy court, antitrust review and the parties entering a purchase agreement.

Livingston, Calif.-based Foster Farms, which operates in eight states, did not immediately comment. A Pilgrim’s Pride spokesman declined comment beyond what was contained in the news release announcing the deal.

Email newsletter signup

The news was hailed in Louisiana, where state officials were so worried about the economic hit to the small town of Farmerville and to north Louisiana — parts of which have already been hit by job losses and begun feeling the effects of the national recession — that they got involved in helping broker the sale.

Shuttering the plant would have cost about 1,300 jobs and also affected about 300 chicken growers, according to the state agriculture department.

Farmerville Mayor Stein Baughman said word was spreading through his small rural town Friday afternoon. He’d found out himself from state Sen. Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe: ‘‘He told me I was the mayor of a town that had a chicken plant,’’ he said.

‘‘We are elated,’’ Baughman said. ‘‘ … There would not have been a home in Union Parish that would have not been affected by this, and I’m not being cute. It would’ve trickled down and affected everyone. We would’ve seen a lot of our friends go bankrupt.’’

Terms of the deal call for Foster Farms and the state to each contribute $40 million, the state agriculture department said.