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High fuel, feed prices force 20 layoffs at Fieldale

POSTED: August 23, 2008 5:00 a.m.

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Fieldale Farms Corp., the Baldwin-based poultry processor, has announced the layoff of 20 administrative employees and plans to leave 10 other positions vacant.

Tom Hensley, executive vice president of the company, said the layoffs were because of rising prices for feed and fuel.

"Our feed cost have increased $2 million a week," Hensley said. "Our diesel fuel costs have increased $16,000 a day for a six-day week."

Hensley, who has been in the business for 33 years, said the current situation "is as tough as I’ve seen it."

The company has reduced production, however, Hensley said no jobs related to production were lost in the cutback.

He said the company offered the employees a generous severance and is doing everything it can to help them find new employment.

He said the company has not cut back on the number of chickens being placed with contract farmers. However, the company has delayed placement of chicks by a day to extend the production cycle.

Hensley said other poultry companies are suffering from the two-pronged problem of feed and fuel costs.

Corn prices have skyrocketed in the past year due largely to the demand for corn for ethanol production.

The Fieldale executive said retail chicken prices cannot keep pace with the internal costs of production.

"People are just willing to pay so much for chicken. Then, they’ll start eating beans," Hensley said.



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