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Southwest Cheese Plant Opening Draws Politicians, Producers and Processors

Oct 16, 2006

Southwest Cheese Plant Opening Draws Politicians, Producers and Processors

By Ashley Ruch, IDFA Manager of Political Programs

The official opening October 6 of Southwest Cheese's (SWC) expansive cheese and whey processing plant in Clovis, New Mexico, drew an impressive array of bipartisan legislators and industry leaders, and offered one example of how the U.S. dairy industry is gearing up for global competitiveness. The gathering serves as a good example of how dairy processors can bring state leaders together to showcase their facilities and community contributions.

The SWC plant is a 50/50 joint venture between Glanbia plc and the Great Southwest Agency, a cooperative in New Mexico that will supply the milk. Glanbia invited several local and regional legislators, including New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, Senators Pete Dominici (R) and Jeff Bingaman (D), Rep. Tom Udall (D), Ireland's Ambassador to the U.S. Noel Fahey, and Clovis Mayor David Lunsford.

"New Mexico is proving itself a leader in dairy production and the opening of the Southwest Cheese Plant is an example of this," said U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM). "It was a pleasure to be on hand and get a close up look at the technology and expertise needed to make a facility like this a success."

Over the past 30 years, the New Mexico dairy industry has steadily moved from the bottom five of milk producing states to seventh in the nation.

IDFA President and CEO Connie Tipton also attended the opening.

"Bringing elected officials through plants, whether it's for a new plant opening, expansion of an existing plant or just for a visit, reminds members of Congress of the contribution the plant makes to the local community," Tipton said.

More than 140 large tanker trucks currently provide seven million gallons of milk a day to the 340,000-square-foot, $200-million facility. The plant is expected to produce 250 million pounds of cheddar, colby, Monterey Jack and pepper jack cheese and 16.5 million pounds of high-value whey proteins on an annual basis.

"We brought state, local and federal officials together and showed that producers and processors can work hand in hand to leverage the best technology, environmental stewardship, innovation and large and efficient milk supply. As a result, we now can produce both cheese and advanced whey proteins that are globally competitive, and we are already exporting in addition to selling nationally," commented Kevin Toland, CEO of Glanbia USA and Nutritionals.

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Posted October 16, 2006

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