Expansion Project Begins at Cheese Plant in Northeast Iowa

A cheese plant in northeast Iowa has begun a $20 million expansion of the facility.

LUANA, Iowa (AP) — A cheese plant in northeast Iowa has begun a $20 million expansion of the facility.

Swiss Valley Farms officials broke ground on the expansion in Luana on Thursday afternoon. The expansion will add 49,000 square feet to the plant and increase the cheese production by 10 million to 15 million pounds each year.

The plans are creating excitement among many dairy farmers in the state, including Don Moon of Clayton County, whose dairy cows produce about 5,300 gallons of milk every two days. The expansion has the potential to significantly help dairy farmers in northeast Iowa, Moon told KCRG-TV (http://bit.ly/1JtmlJp).

"Whatever it takes to get rid of the surplus of milk, it's better for everybody because the price will eventually come up," Moon said.

Until recently, the demand for whole milk was down, Swiss Valley CEO Don Boelens said. But there's more of a demand for processed dairy foods like cheese, which largely is why the company decided now was the time to expand its largest facility, he said.

"We've also seen recent announcements by McDonalds to include real butter in their menus versus other things they've been using so there are positive developments for the dairy industry, so I think that positive message is getting out there," Boelens said.

Much of the $20 million price tag for the Swiss Valley Farms expansion is being used on new equipment to increase cheese production. The company also plans to hire 10 to 15 new employees.

The plant expansion is expected to wrap up late next year.

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