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Tyson to rebuild Kansas beef plant after fire

Company will continue to pay full-time active employees until production resumes.

Tyson Foods said Monday that it will eventually rebuild its Holcomb, Kan., beef plant after it was partly destroyed by a fire Friday, causing the plant to be closed indefinitely. The plant employs approximately 3,300 people and processes about 6,000 head per day.

“Officials are still assessing the damage, so it’s too early to establish a timeline, but work to clear damage has already begun,” the company said.

Steve Stouffer, group president of Tyson Fresh Meats, said, “This is a difficult time for our team members and their families, and we want to ensure they’re taken care of. Today, we will notify our full-time, active team members that they’ll be paid weekly until production resumes.”

Stouffer said the team members may be called on to work during this time to help with cleanup and other projects, but regardless of the hours worked, all full-time active employees are guaranteed pay.

“We’re taking steps to move production to alternative sites,” Stouffer said. “Tyson Foods has built in some redundancy to handle situations like these, and we will use other plants within our network to help keep our supply chain full.”

Stouffer commended plant management for quickly and efficiently evacuating the building. As a result of their actions, there were no injuries reported during the fire. Tyson said it greatly appreciates the hard work, dedication and help from the Holcomb and Garden City, Kan., fire departments, as well as the Finney County Sheriff’s Office.

Tyson operates six plants in Kansas that employ more than 5,600 people. In the company’s 2018 fiscal year, it paid $269 million in wages within Kansas and estimated its total economic impact in the state to be more than $2.4 billion.

Rep. Roger Marshall (R., Kan.) released a statement Monday thanking Tyson “for its commitment to rebuild its beef plant in Holcomb, Kan., following this weekend’s devastating fire.”

“This is good news not only for the plant’s 3,500-plus employees but for Kansas farmers and ranchers,” he said, adding that Tyson is a major employer in southwest Kansas, responsible for millions of dollars in payroll and economic impact annually.

Marshall said he plans to visit the region this week to personally thank the fire crews in both Garden City and Holcomb as well as all first responders who assisted with the fire.

“I am thankful no one was hurt and will continue to keep first responders and Tyson employees on the forefront of my mind as rebuilding moves forward," he said.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist Derrell Peel said the loss of 30,000-35,000 head of slaughter capacity per week will disrupt both boxed beef and fed cattle markets, at least initially and potentially longer, depending on the duration of the plant closure.

“The disruptions will add costs for both fed cattle and boxed beef as additional logistics are needed to adjust flows of slaughter cattle and boxed beef,” he explained. “There are many unknowns for Tyson and the industry going forward, including the possibility that this sets the stage for new investment in beef packing. The U.S. has not seen major new beef packing infrastructure for many years.”

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