Dairy to Take Over Michigan Auto Plant

A Coopersville, Mich., auto parts plant once valued at nearly $33 million will be converted for dairy manufacturing after being sold for a bargain price.

Last month, Arizona Maricopa Associates LLC, a dairy conglomerate spanning the southwestern United States, closed the deal on the 300,000-square-foot former factory, buying it from the bankrupt Delphi Corp. for $4.4 million, as reported in The Grand Rapids Press.

The factory was built by General Motors in 1980 to make precision engine parts and employed nearly 700 people before it closed nearly two years ago.

Arizona Maricopa is owned by the Arie De Jong family, a long-standing member of the West Coast milk industry. The product mix and job count for the new site is still unclear. “We got a property transfer in,” Coopersville City Manager Steve Patrick told The Press. “The company is dairy-related, but I have not been told for sure if it’s going to be a dairy operation.”

Since the plant closed, Coopersville officials said, interest was high in the 125-acre property.

The site accounts for more than 30% of the city’s assessed real-estate value.

The De Jong family emigrated from Holland in 1949. Settling in Escondido, Calif., they established a dairy business that expanded into Arizona in the past decade.

The De Jong family has been on the cutting edge of the dairy industry since 1620, when Arie De Jong’s forefathers opened their first dairy in the Netherlands. Family members who moved to the United States continued the family tradition in California’s Central Valley. Five years ago, Arie De Jong expanded the family’s Visalia, Calif.-based Milky Way Dairy to Maricopa, Ariz., where he has built a state-of-the-art facility.

De Jong was encouraged to move to Arizona by the United Dairymen of Arizona’s milk base earning program and the availability of affordable land. The 7,000-head dairy operation occupies 327 acres on De Jong’s 1,260-acre spread. Milked three times a day, the cows produce an average of 74 pounds of milk per cow daily.

Processors respond to peanut recall

Akron, N.Y.-based Perry’s Ice Cream launched voluntary recall of select ice cream products containing peanut butter because the products have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella.

FDA and other regulatory agencies have indicated that Peanut Corp. of America is the focus of an investigation concerning a recent Salmonella outbreak thought to be caused by tainted peanut butter. As a result of the investigation, PCA has recalled 170 lots of suspect peanut butter and peanut paste. Virginia-based PCA is one of Perry’s peanut butter sauce suppliers.

Perry’s is recalling ice cream products containing peanut butter sauce, which have been recalled by PCA. The company has not received any consumer illness complaints about these products. The impacted products are distributed in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia.

Meanwhile, Oakland, Calif.-based Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream says its products are not involved in the U.S. government’s ongoing Salmonella investigation. The company says it and its suppliers did not buy ingredients from PCA. Dreyer’s products include ice cream and frozen novelties sold under the Dreyer’s, Edy’s, Häagen-Dazs, Drumstick and Nestlé brands, among others.

The recall involved peanut butter and paste made at PCA’s Blakely, Ga., facility. The recalled peanut products were distributed to institutions, foodservice industries and private label food companies in 24 states, the province of Saskatchewan in Canada, Korea and Haiti. These products are sold by PCA in bulk packaging in containers ranging in size from 5 to 1,700 pounds; the peanut paste is sold in sizes ranging from 35-pound containers to tanker containers. The products in the recall were made on or after July 1, 2008.

Ben & Jerry’s Honors Sen. Leahy

Sen. Patrick Leahy became the longest-serving U.S. senator in Vermont history in December and had a sundae created in his honor.

Vermont-based Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Inc. launched a special sundae dedicated to Leahy at its Church Street scoop shop in Burlington, Vt., according to the Burlington Free Press. Proceeds went to Leahy’s designated charity, the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf.

The senator and his wife, Marcelle, scooped ice cream for customers. “The sundae featured two scoops, both placed firmly on the left,” quipped Sean Greenwood, spokesman for Ben & Jerry’s, owned by Unilever.

One scoop was Cherry Garcia, to honor Leahy’s love for the Grateful Dead. The other was Phish Food, to honor the senator’s efforts to clean up Vermont’s Lake Champlain. The sundae was topped with whipped cream, hot fudge and nuts.

“A lifelong commitment to politics is a little bit nutty after all,” Greenwood told the Free Press. “We want to have a little fun while letting the senator know we appreciate all he’s done.”

Leahy, 68, has spent nearly half his life – 34 years – in office, surpassing the Vermont record set by the late Sen. George Aiken, a Republican. Aiken retired in 1975 and was succeeded by Leahy, a Democrat.

Bay Area Organic Community Opposes New Pasture Provisions

The pioneering organic dairy farmers and processors of Central California are opposing the new pasture access regulations being considered by USDA as an amendment to the organic milk definitions, at least as written.

The new standards have a “one-size-fits-all” approach, imposing farming methods applicable in the Midwest and East that would be totally inappropriate, and likely disastrous, for San Francisco Bay Area dairies, they say.

 “As currently written, these proposed regulations would put us and many other dairies out of business,” said Marin County’s Albert Straus, founder and owner of Straus Family Creamery, the first organic dairy west of the Mississippi. “They conflict with existing regulations from state and federal authorities on water quality, soil and animal welfare issues.”

Joining Straus in its opposition are Clover Organic Farms, Wallaby and Cowgirl Creamery, representing 32 of 33 organic dairies in the North Bay that supply nearly 100% of the local organic milk on the grocery shelves in the Bay Area. USDA public comment period closed Dec. 23.

Schreiber’s Pozniak Retires; Haddad Named New Chief

David Pozniak retired as president and chief executive officer of Green Bay, Wis.-based Schreiber Foods at the end of 2008 to focus on his improved health. Mike Haddad has assumed those posts effective the start of 2009.

“I’m very proud of our company and our partners,” Pozniak said. “Schreiber is well positioned for the future. I have great faith in Mike Haddad and great faith in our partners around the world.”

Haddad thanked Pozniak for his 34 years of service to Schreiber and the indelible impact he has left on the company. “David’s contributions to our company’s success are immeasurable. He had the vision to expand our international footprint and create new markets for our products worldwide. He was the lead on the majority of the acquisitions we’ve made in the last 10 years. He leaves an incredible legacy of output that will have a positive impact on our company’s growth for years to come,” he said.

“Thank you so much for three decades of exceptional results and for your loyal and faithful service to this company. We wish you abundant health and happiness in the years ahead.”

Haddad joined Schreiber in 1995 as a business sales manager after spending eight years with Haddad Enterprises, a New England food broker.  He was named national sales director-distributors in 2002, a vice president in 2004 and a senior vice president in 2005. In 2006, he was named president and chief operating officer of Schreiber Foods Sales and elected to the company’s board of directors.

Haddad is on the board of directors of the Wisconsin Chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.  He and his wife, Leanne, live in Green Bay with their daughter Kelly and son Nick.

Schreiber Foods is the world’s largest employee-owned dairy company with annual sales of more than $4 billion. It produces and distributes process, natural, cream and specialty cheeses; yogurt; butter; butter blends; sour cream; and a range of other dairy products to restaurants, foodservice organizations and retailers around the world. It has sales, processing and distribution operations in the United States, Brazil, China, Germany, India and Mexico.