Plant closure sparks anger, questions

By Jean Caspers-Simmet

CLEAR Lake, Iowa -- Stockholders of Iowa Quality Beef Supply Cooperative want answers when an information meeting is held Thursday in Ames.

About 40 cattle producer members of the cooperative met in Clear Lake Oct. 11 to express concerns about what is happening with the cooperative and the Tama packing plant it owns in partnership with American Foods Group of Green Bay, Wis. The plant closed in August.

The Clear Lake meeting was organized by Doug Hess, Queen's Corp., Tyler, Minn. Hess, who negotiates on behalf of farmers and businesses facing financial difficulties, said he received calls from shareholders in at least five states who are concerned. He offered to help Iowa Quality Beef negotiate with creditors but was turned down. Because shareholders kept calling, he set up the meeting so shareholders could discuss their options.


"There is not a lot of time for something to be done,'' Hess said. "It would be advantageous for everyone who raises cattle to keep that plant open on transportation alone. It's beneficial for the state to get those 540 employees back to work.''

Russ Christensen, a Royal cattle producer and former president of the Iowa Cattlemen's Association, said everyone knows the plant improved the basis for cattle producers.

"I think we'd be damned lucky if we could walk way from that thing and forget we ever knew anything about it,'' Christensen said. "That thing is ugly.''

Unfortunately for Christensen and other shareholders, they can't just walk away. They signed delivery obligations pledging to deliver cattle to the plant for five years based on the number of shares they purchased. If cattle aren't delivered they could be penalized. Christensen said he heard the cooperative will sell delivery obligations to whoever buys the plant.

David Kruse, president of CommStock Investments and a Royal farmer, said shareholders have been kept in the dark.

"They (the board) haven't appeared to care what we think,'' said Kruse, who is Christensen's son-in-law.

Kruse said he wants the plant sold so that it can continue to operate, but he wants shareholders released from their delivery obligations. He also wants his tax loss protected.

What To Read Next
Get Local