Dairy supply runs dry for Jamaica distributor

A security guard stands outside the entrance to the Beyer Farms facility in Jamaica after the company closed last week. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Beyer Farms, the 70-year-old dairy distributor in Jamaica whose trucks delivered Tuscan brand milk to stores throughout the five boroughs, Long Island and parts of New Jersey, shuttered its doors last week after Tuscan cut off the supply of the company’s bread and butter.

Dean Foods, Tuscan’s parent company, said Bayer’s mounting bills caused it to terminate the company’s contract earlier this month.

Beyer expanded several years ago when it ink a deal with Tuscan, which shipped raw milk from farms across the tri-state area to Elmhurst Dairy, which pasteurized the milk at its facility, at 156-02 Liberty Ave. in Jamaica.

The company distributed products such as Tropicana-brand juices, Poland Spring water and Red Bull energy drinks, but milk appeared to be its meal ticket.

About 130 Teamsters who loaded and drove the company’s trucks were laid off Dec. 11 after Beyer fell behind on payments and Tuscan terminated its contract.

“They had continued to fall further and further behind on their obligations with us,” said a spokesman for the Texas-based Dean Foods. “We tried to resolve the payment issues with Beyer, but their growing financial exposure wasn’t sustainable.”

Beyer could not be reached for comment.

Dairy is big business in the part of Jamaica adjacent to York College, where companies such as Derle Farms, Bartlett Dairy & Food Service, Sweet Clover Farms, the Elmhurst Dairy and Beyer are all located within walking distance of each other.

Frank Wunderlich, president of Teamsters Local 584, said there had been hints that Beyer was in some sort of financial straits but the decision to close the company came as a surprise.

“We knew they were having problems, but never to the point that they’d shut the doors down,” he said. “I don’t know how much they owned, but personally I believe Dean Foods is such a big conglomerate with 80 percent of the milk market, that Beyer tried to come up with some of the money to pay them and they just said ‘No.’”

Dean Foods said that since terminating the contract earlier this month, the company has been working with other distributors to ensure that its products stay on store shelves.

Wunderlich said 42 Teamsters filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board that they were illegally laid off from Elmhurst Dairy in October, which would make it that much harder from the 130 newly jobless union members to find work.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

Updated 8:07 pm, December 19, 2012
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