TORRINGTON, WYO. — Denver-based Western Sugar Cooperative plans to permanently lay off 92 workers in mid-January at its Torrington sugar beet processing plant, according to reports in the Torrington Telegram and the Scottsbluff, Neb., Star-Herald.
Western sent a letter to the City of Torrington announcing the layoffs, “based on current and projected business plans and needs,” the reports said. The letter did not mention the facility’s future, but trade sources and press reports said beet processing operations would end, and the facility would be used only to store and pack sugar going forward.
“It is our plan that this will be the last campaign that we will process sugar beets there,” Rodney Perry, president and chief executive officer of Western Sugar, told the Torrington Telegram. The storing and packing operations are expected to employ 20 to 30 full-time workers, the newspaper said.
Mr. Perry indicated closing of the Torrington plant had been planned and was announced in 2016 in conjunction with upgrades at the cooperative’s Fort Morgan, Colo., and Scottsbluff plants.
Cooperative growers in the region would not be affected, as sugar beets would be delivered to the Scottsbluff plant, which is about 30 miles southeast of Torrington, Mr. Perry said.
Western Sugar Cooperative has 134,140 base sugar beet acres across Colorado, Nebraska, Montana and Wyoming with more than 850 grower/owners and more than 1,000 employees. In addition to the corporate office in Denver and the processing plants in Torrington, Scottsbluff and Fort Morgan, Western also has beet processing facilities in Billings, Mont., and Lovell, Wyo., with aggregate beet slicing capacity of 3.6 million tons annually. Western’s sugar production exceeds 10 million cwts (500,000 tons) annually, accounting for about 5% of domestic sugar production. The cooperative also operates storage facilities in Rocky Ford, Sterling and Longmont, Colo., and in Bayard, Gering, and Mitchell, Neb. In 2002 the cooperative finalized purchase of Western Sugar from Tate & Lyle and entered into a long-term lease agreement with American Crystal Sugar Co. for the operation of the Torrington plant, which was built in 1926.
Western produces retail granulated, brown and powdered sugars under the GW brand, as well as bulk totes and bags of granulated sugar and powdered sugar in bags for industrial users.