Premium Iowa Pork finalizes $14 million purchase of bankrupt Minnesota plant

Source: Des Moines Register

Premium Iowa Pork has finalized its $14 million purchase of a Minnesota pork processing plant that closed earlier this month after filing for bankruptcy, idling its largely foreign workforce.

HyLife Foods Windom closed the plant June 2, leaving about 1,000 workers without jobs. HyLife said in court documents that COVID-19-related disruptions and low pork prices, among other issues, resulted in two years of operating losses, prompting it to seek bankruptcy protection in April.

HyLife placed the plant on the auction block and Premium Iowa Pork was the highest bidder.

The family-owned Iowa company said the Windom plant fits with its processing plants in Hospers in northwest Iowa and Luverne in southwest Minnesota. Windom is about 90 miles from Hospers, where the company’s headquarters is located, and about 60 miles from Luverne.

It said in an email Friday it’s unsure when the plant will reopen. The company plans a comprehensive review of the Windom plant.

“We are only in the beginning stages of that,” it said.

Minnesota investigating HyLife for wage and hour violations

HyLife has said it is helping about 500 foreign workers who worked at the plant via employment visas return home or find new jobs. The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry notified the U.S. Department of Homeland Security June 6 that it is investigating HyLife Foods for wage and hour violations from May 8, 2021, to present, according to Investigate Midwest, which linked to the letter.

The Minnesota Department of Labor declined to comment Friday.

The letter asks Homeland Security for “prosecutorial discretion” for HyLife workers as well as employment authorization documents.

“Workers in Minnesota who do not have immigration status to lawfully work are especially vulnerable to exploitative workplace practices and may be less likely to file complaints or participate in an investigation of their employer out of fear of retaliation, including adverse employment action in relation to their immigration status,” the letter says.

HyLife Foods could not be reached for comment Friday.

Premium Iowa Pork says it has been providing “private-label, antibiotic-free pork to grocery stores across the country since 2005.” The company employs about 900 people from Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota in its operations.

“We are excited about the opportunity that this acquisition represents for the future of our business,” Dan Paquin, president of Premium Iowa Pork, said in a statement.  “The proximity of this new pork plant to our existing operations will complement our workforce and operations in both Hospers and Luverne.”