Smithfield Foods recently announced that it will cease all harvest and processing operations in Vernon, California in early 2023 and, at the same time, align its hog production system by reducing its sow herd in its Western region. The company will decrease its sow herd in Utah and is exploring strategic options to exit its farms in Arizona and California. Smithfield harvests only company-owned hogs in Vernon. Smithfield will service customers in California with its Farmer John brand and other brands and products from existing facilities in the Midwest.

The company announced it was making this decision "due to the escalating cost of doing business in California."

Smithfield is providing transition assistance to all impacted employees, including relocation options to other company facilities and farms as well as retention incentives to ensure business continuity until early next year. Smithfield provides more than 40,000 American jobs at 46 facilities and nearly 500 company-owned farms.

The Beaver County Commission has subsequently declared a state of economic emergency. It is unknown how many families the reduction will affect, but local officials are concerned the impact will be significant.

“My family was able to return to Beaver County 15 years ago because I was able to be employed at Smithfield Foods,” Robinson said in a media interview with the Salt Lake Tribune. “[S]o I deeply empathize with those fellow employees, their families, contractors, contract growers, their families, all of the affected businesses, our partners at the school district. … I think I understand the feeling of not knowing exactly what’s going to happen.”

The Tribune further reported that an idea of building a local hog processing facility in Utah is in the preliminary stages, according to Craig Buttars, commissioner of the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food. “[T]here is potential state and federal funding available for such a project as part of President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan, which aims to improve U.S. infrastructure and workforces.” Buttars said to the Tribune.

Smithfield Foods gathered with the Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity (Go Utah) and UDAF recently to discuss the options available to keep production going in the county.

“We’re concerned, and we look forward to working with Smithfield Foods and Beaver County constituents,” said Ryan Starks, Managing Director of Business Services for Go Utah. “Go Utah will do all it can through its Center for Rural Development and other initiatives to support the impacted workers and their families.”

“This is a big blow to Utah agriculture, especially to southern Utah’s rural economies,” said Ron Gibson, President of the Utah Farm Bureau. “We continue to see how regulation impacts agriculture. We are hopeful that all parties working together can find a way to keep agriculture thriving in rural Utah. We also see the impact that processing has on production agriculture, and the needs we have to build agricultural infrastructure in Utah.”