Layoffs looming at Foster Farms Fresno plant

Foster Farms Dairy will consolidate Central Valley milk production later this year, which means impending layoffs at its Fresno milk and juice processing plant on Ashlan Avenue.

Plans are that by the end of the year, all milk and juice processing will be done in Modesto, resulting in nearly all plant employees and approximately 15 delivery drivers being subject to permanent layoff from their current jobs. Foster Farms Dairy is offering Fresno employees affected by these layoffs the opportunity to transfer to Modesto for the openings that are created there.

The company gave notice of this pending action to employees back in April. The official Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification program notice through the state has been mailed to employees, union representatives and local public agencies. The papers specify a layoff date as soon as Oct. 1.

The facility, located on Ashlan Avenue near Highway 99, will continue to operate a distribution depot to service customers in the Fresno area. In addition, a large group of administrative employees will remain at the facility. Although approximately 75 employees will be laid off or transferred, there will be about 50 employees remaining at the Ashlan facility.

Foster Farms Dairy purchased the site at 3380 W. Ashlan Ave. in 1986 from Knudsen Dairy.

With two plants in the Valley, the older and smaller Fresno plant is dedicated to milk and juice production while the Modesto plant is a full-service location that includes the processing of milk, juices, ice cream, sour cream, cottage cheese and specialty dry powders and mixes. The more modern Modesto facility has been expanding since 2001.

Increasingly, Foster Farms has been looking north for expansion, having acquired the Matterhorn Group’s two processing plants located in Sacramento and Salem, Ore. late last year. In 2007, Foster Farms acquired Crystal Cream and Butter Company from HP Hood. In 2009, Foster Farms Dairy acquired Humboldt Creamery.

Foster Farms is not giving up on the older Fresno facility.

”The Fresno plant has not been offered for sale. We hope we will get additional business so we can use it as a production facility again," said Luis Miranda, a Foster Farms spokesperson.