A group of poultry farmers in Missouri have taken legal action against Tyson Foods after the company closed a processing plant in Stoddard County last year.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs, farmers contracted by Tyson, allege that Tyson not only breached their contract with the producers but caused them to accrue millions of dollars in debt to meet, update, and maintain facilities in compliance with Tyson’s specifications. The 36-page suit also alleges fraudulent misrepresentation by Tyson.
“After operating in Stoddard County for years, the Tyson Companies, on August 7, 2023, announced that — contrary to their repeated statements and assurances to Plaintiffs and others about their long-term plans to do business in Stoddard County — all operations at the Dexter Complex would cease in October 2023,” reads the suit.
Although Tyson announced the plans to shutter the Dexter plant and three other processing facilities during an earnings call for the fiscal year 2023, the farmers claim that Tyson was aware of upcoming closures as soon as November 2021.
The growers also say that Tyson Companies’ grower arrangements are made with farmers who raise birds within 45 miles of processing plants because of shipping restrictions on poultry. The lack of other processing plants within those parameters limits the farmer’s ability to grow chickens for anyone except Tyson.
During an interview with kfvs 12, the farmers’ attorney, Russ Oliver, said that although competitor Cal-Maine Foods announced its intent to purchase the facility last week, the proposal includes paying farmers half of what Tyson was paying them. In addition, Cal-Maine is requiring farmers to release Tyson of any liability before they contract with the farmers.
“Our egg layer farmer clients have been put through a torturous five months since Tyson’s August 7th closure announcement. They have millions of dollars of debt because of Tyson’s false promises. Cal-Maine’s proposal is to pay these farmers roughly half of what their contract with Tyson paid for a dozen eggs,” Oliver said.
He continued: “Generations of farmers have raised chickens for Tyson. Tyson strong-armed these farmers into taking on debt, and now the farmers are being strong-armed into taking terrible deals. This is wrong, and we will not stand for it. That is why we filed this lawsuit.”
»Related: Tyson Foods to shutter four more plants in America’s heartland