VINELAND — General Mills said Thursday it will lay off about 65 workers in March as it moves toward closing its Progresso soup plant later this year.

The layoffs are the first in a series of dismissals that will eliminate the 338-member workforce, according to the company and state Department of Labor and Workforce Development documents.

General Mills filed a federally required notice giving 60-day warnings connected to mass layoffs or factory closings.

The notice sets March 24 as the first layoff day.

When asked about the jobs those workers perform, General Mills spokeswoman Kelsey Roemhildt said, “As we move certain production lines to other areas within our supply chain, those employees will be let go.”

Roemhildt had no date for the plant closing but said it will occur this summer.

General Mills will partner with the city and local agencies to help find a new user for the complex on West Elmer Road, she said.

Brian String, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 152, which represents many of the plant workers, couldn’t be reached for comment.

Operations at the plant Thursday appeared the same as they’ve been for years. Trucks entered and left the property. Workers made the walk between their cars and the main plant building.

Some workers declined comment Thursday. One worker, who said he wouldn’t identify himself for fear of jeopardizing his remaining time at the plant, said most employees are resigned to losing their jobs.

General Mills announced the closing in July, saying it planned to transfer production to other U.S. facilities “to eliminate excess soup capacity.” The company confirmed the closing in September.

The plant has been a mainstay of Cumberland County’s economy since the 1940s. It was bought by General Mills in 2001 and was featured in a series of national advertisements touting Vineland as the home of Progresso soup.

2017 marks Progresso’s 75th anniversary.

According to city records, the Progresso plant’s land and buildings are assessed at $13.7 million. The company paid $334,800 in local taxes in 2016, the records show.

The plant’s closing further stings Cumberland County, which had a 6.2 percent unemployment rate in December. The state had a 4.7 unemployment rate in December.

Still, the city’s workforce isn’t the only one to be affected by business at General Mills.

In January, General Mills announced it planned to eliminate 400 to 600 jobs internationally as it restructured its business. The company is struggling with weaker sales for its cereal and yogurt. Its brands include Yoplait, Wheaties, Cheerios and Lucky Charms.

The company reported in December that its net sales decreased 7 percent, to $4.1 billion, in its quarter ending Nov. 27.

Contact: 609-226-9197 TBarlas@pressofac.com Twitter @ACPressBarlas

Been writing for newspapers since junior year in high school. Was editor of the Glassboro State College newspaper. Started with The Press in October 1980 and have covered Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland counties, municipalities in all three counties.

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