A new Fort Wayne, Ind. dairy processing plant being planned by Walmart is getting mixed reactions among Michigan dairymen and processors.
The plant, announced March 18, will provide "more than 200 good-paying jobs ranging from milk processing to transportation by the end of 2017," according to Walmart officials.
The 250,000 square-foot plant "will leverage the latest technologies to produce Great Value and Member's Mark white and chocolate milk for more than 600 Walmart stores and Sam's Club locations in Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Northern Kentucky," Walmart announced. Walmart estimates that milk processing will begin in the summer of 2017.
What is good news for Indiana as it seeks to grow its dairy industry might not be good for Michigan's processors, however.
"We'll view this with skeptical optimism," said Ernie Birchmeier, livestock and dairy specialist with Michigan Farm Bureau. "It's not as if fluid milk consumption is going up every year, so this will have an impact on Michigan's processing plants that supply fluid milk to Walmart."
Caution is the best way to proceed at this point, said Chuck Courtade, director of customer relations for Dairy Farmers of America (DFA).
"Unless Walmart is promoting more milk, it might mean just a shift from one bottling plant to another," he said. "At first glance it appears that Michigan's local plants that supply Walmart won't supply them anymore, but all the details about the project remain to be seen. There are still a lot of unanswered questions."
Michigan Milk Producers Association President Ken Nobis did not immediately return a call requesting comment due to the cooperative board in session.