Walmart to Build Milk Processing Plant in Georgia - Cowsmo

Walmart to Build Milk Processing Plant in Georgia

Walmart announced Wednesday it will build a new $350 million milk processing plant in south Georgia, hiring nearly 400 people.

Arkansas-based Walmart said the plant will provide milk to more than 750 Walmart and Sam’s Club stores in Georgia and neighboring states.

Bruce Heckman, Walmart’s vice president of manufacturing, said in a statement that the company wants to do more to ensure its milk supply, saying the company wants to provide “high-quality milk for our customers that we can offer at the everyday low prices they rely on.”

The plant will produce gallons and half gallons of white and chocolate milk.

It’s the second milk processing plant Walmart has built, after one that opened in 2018 in Fort Wayne, Indiana, helping it control production of one of the most price-sensitive grocery commodities. The company previously bought all its milk from other dairy companies.

The retail giant is following the lead of other large grocers such as Kroger, which has long run its own dairies. But some critics have warned Walmart buys milk from only a handful of very large dairy farms, putting smaller farms under further pressure. Americans drank 22% less milk per person in 2021 than they did in 2011, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said the plant would create new opportunities for farmers and strengthen Georgia agriculture. Agriculture Commissioner Tyler Harper, like Kemp a Republican, said the plant would help keep farm income in Georgia.

Workers will make an average of more than $60,000 a year, plus benefits, Walmart spokesperson Tricia Moriarty said.

Walmart plans to begin operations in Valdosta in late 2025. The company could qualify for $8 million in state income tax credits, at $4,000 per job over five years. Valdosta and Lowndes County will give property tax breaks on the real estate and equipment for 20 years, said Andrea Schruijer, executive director of the Valdosta-Lowndes County Development Authority. She said no estimate of the value of those abatements was available.

Walmart says it has nearly 65,000 employees in Georgia, working at 213 stores, 10 distribution centers and three fulfillment centers.

Georgia Milk Producers, a dairy farmer trade group, reports Georgia currently has 89 dairy farms, with 92,000 dairy cows, more than 1,000 cows per farm. That’s much larger than the average dairy farm nationwide, which had 337 cows in 2022. Georgia produced 235 million gallons of milk in 2022. That’s more than any other southern state, but far less than national leaders like California, Wisconsin, New York, Texas and Idaho.

Walmart plans to buy milk from existing farms, Moriarty said, but she said it’s possible some new dairy farms could open or some farms expand.

“The Southeast should have ample milk supply to handle the volume for the facility,” Moriarty wrote in an email.

Georgia currently has two commercial milk processing plants in Atlanta and Lawrenceville.

Source: AP News

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