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Layoffs underway at Del Monte plant in Sleepy Eye

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An older water tower stands over a brick building.
The Del Monte cannery in Sleepy Eye, Minn.
Evan Frost | MPR News file

Del Monte Foods began laying off full-time employees at its Sleepy Eye, Minn., plant on Monday. It’s the latest blow to the town whose economy leaned heavily on the facility for nearly 90 years.

The company announced in August that it would shutter the corn and pea packing plant, which employed more than 360 people and was an economic driver for farmers and businesses around Sleepy Eye.

Some 300 farmers sell Del Monte more than 22,000 acres of peas and sweet corn each year. Without the Sleepy Eye packing plant to buy their vegetables, those farmers will likely switch those plots to less-lucrative field corn and soybean crops.

Rumors swirled about town that an outside company would buy the plant from Del Monte and stop the closure, but none came true.

The Del Monte plant relied heavily on migrant and seasonal workers. They accounted for nearly 300 jobs, and some were laid off earlier this month once the corn pack season finished.

The remaining full-time staff will be laid off in May, according to a statement Del Monte posted on Facebook. A company representative did not return requests for comment.