The plant has stood for decades. Folks across the Magic Valley still refer to it as Green Giant.
The Seneca Foods plant is closing its food-processing operation. The plant is falling short of its processing capacity, said Tim Benjamin, Seneca’s chief financial officer.
“This decision was very difficult for us and (was) not taken lightly,” Benjamin said.
About 30 employees are losing their jobs over the next six months as the plant winds down.
“In no way does (the closure) reflect the efforts of the Buhl employees,” Benjamin said. “We are working with the affected employees and will be making them aware of opportunities at our other facilities.”
Farmers who contracted to grow Seneca’s sweet corn also have been notified, he said. Many seasonal workers will go without supplemental wages from Seneca work.
The plant’s seed division will continue to operate.
The plant began as Green Giant, the corporation with one of the most recognizable advertising icons of the 20th century. In 1969, the jolly Green Giant merged with Pillsbury Co. and was later acquired by General Mills. The Green Giant brand is now owned by B&G Foods, which also owns the Cream of Wheat, Ortega and Mrs. Dash brands.
Seneca Foods still makes Green Giant canned products. They make up 13 percent of Seneca’s $1.3 billion in annual sales, Benjamin said. The company owns a cannery in Payette, which will not close.
Headquartered in Marion, N.Y., Seneca spent about $19 million in 2011 converting the Buhl plant from a cannery to a frozen-food plant, which required an additional 100,000 square feet of cold storage.
Twin Falls County Commissioner Terry Kramer, whose family has grown sweet corn for the plant since 1966, said local farmers once grew a 16,000-acre sweet corn crop worth $12 million annually for the plant when it was a cannery. He estimates about 5,000 acres were grown this year for the frozen-corn operation.