Joey Airoso's family has owned this dairy farm in Tulare County for more than a century. But Airoso says the past several years haven't been easy.
“Lately with the drought in the Midwest and feed costs, it's been really almost impossible to deal with,” explained Airoso.
Airoso and other dairy farmers in the valley could soon be getting some much needed help. CaliCheese Company plans to build a $250 million cheese processing plant on West Paige Avenue, near the city waste-water treatment plant. The company says the 300,000 square foot plant will process 4 million pounds of milk a day into blocks of cheese. Project development manager Jeffrey Lee says they'll be using milk from local dairies.
“In our case, we're sitting right in the middle of the major California milk shed and therefore we'll be using up that milk to the dairy farmers benefit,” explained Lee.
Dairy farmers aren't the only ones expected to benefit from the cheese processing plant. Lee says the project will also bring Tulare jobs and sales tax revenue. Lee said, “There will be a fair amount of construction jobs, and when it's running and in production, we'll be hiring locally 220 people for highly skilled jobs with the plant.”
Airoso believes it's a win-win.
“We've been a state where you hear a lot of businesses leaving. So anytime someone new wants to come in here and create jobs and make more processing capacity for our dairy products, I think it's a great thing,” expressed Airoso.
Tulare is home to many large dairy product producers and firms including Haggen-Dazs, Kraft Foods, Saputo and Land O'Lakes.
CaliCheese LLC hopes to start building the facility this summer and open in 2015.