Baraboo, Wis.-based Foremost Farms USA has announced the sale of its two milk processing plants in Wisconsin to Dallas-based dairy giant Dean Foods Co.

The Waukesha plant, which employs 146 people, packages fluid milk and manufactures ice cream mix. The De Pere plant packages fluid milk and manufactures sour cream and employs 136. No change in workforce is planned, the company said.

The plants processed and packaged dairy products under the GG Golden Guernsey Dairy and Morning Glory labels, which were sold to Dean as part of the deal, according to Joan Behr, Foremost Farms’ director of communications. “Their intent is to continue marketing milk under both labels,” Behr said.

“As food retailers consolidate to gain market share and operating efficiencies, Foremost Farms has been challenged to efficiently supply customers who have a significant regional or national presence and prefer to have a sole supplier,” explained David Fuhrmann, Foremost Farms president. “We are confident that these plants have a better chance for success by being part of Dean Foods, the largest processor and distributor of milk and other dairy products in the country. This is a win-win for both parties.”

David Scheevel, Foremost’s chairman of the board, said: “These two plants have been part of Foremost Farms and its predecessor cooperatives for nearly 80 years and our members and employees have made financial and emotional investments in both brands. Our board fully supports this move. We feel it’s in the best, long-term interests of our member-owners.”

Strategically, the move allows Foremost Farms to focus on processing and marketing cheese, dairy ingredients and butter for national and international customers and marketing bulk fluid milk to processors in the region. “These markets hold growth opportunities for Foremost Farms that will continue to provide our dairy farmer-members with a financially strong market for their milk,” Fuhrmann said.

As part of the sales agreement, Foremost Farms will continue supplying bulk fluid milk to the Waukesha and De Pere plants.

Foremost Farms USA is a cooperative with 2,350 dairy farmer-members who live in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. The company marketed 5 billion pounds of milk in 2008. The cooperative has 10 cheese plants in Wisconsin, six dairy ingredient plants, one butter plant, two milk transfer stations and a regional office in Indianapolis. In 2008, the cooperative’s revenues were $1.6 billion.

Read more about Foremost Farms and the history of its brands in the March issue of Dairy Foods/Dairy Field Reports,