KINGSLAND, Aug 21, 2010 (The Florida Times-Union – McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) —
Bayer CropScience, one of the largest private employers in Camden County, is closing in about two years, costing 84 employees their jobs.
The plant near Woodbine produces only one product, the insecticide Temik, which is sold worldwide for use on citrus, potatoes, cotton and other crops.
Bayer voluntarily agreed to stop producing the insecticide by 2014 after the Environmental Protection Agency determined the chemical is a possible health risk
. According to the agreement with the EPA, farmers may continue to use existing stocks of Temik on citrus and potatoes until the end of 2011. Other uses for the product must end by 2014.
Plant manager John Drew said an exact date when the plant will close will be determined sometime in September.
“We supply the whole world from here,” he said. “This is the end of this plant as a manufacturing facility. I hate to go; I love it here.”
Drew said the plant has an outstanding safety record, with no lost time because of a workplace injury in more than 11 years. The plant was also a finalist for the Georgia manufacturer of the year in 2009, he said.
Kingsland Mayor Ken Smith said the announcement is disappointing.
“It’s real bad news,” he said. “I don’t know if there’s anything we can do to help.”
Drew said there is “no hope” Bayer will keep the plant open to produce another product.
David Keating, director of the Camden County Joint Development Authority, said he plans to meet with Bayer officials to determine if the global corporation which produces aspirin, vitamins, herbicides and other products can find another use for the facility. He said the annual payroll is $7.5 million.
“Maybe there’s a way to save those jobs,” he said.
A Bayer release disputes the EPA’s risk assessment, and company officials said Temik does not pose a health concern.
“For nearly 40 years, Temik has provided farmers with unsurpassed control of destructive pests, without compromising human health or environmental safety,” Bill Buckner, president and CEO of Bayer CropScience, said in a statement.
A Friday statement by the American Bird Conservancy praised the decision to stop producing the pesticide
, describing it as among the most toxic on the market.
“Today’s decision to implement a phased cancellation will better safeguard birds and other wildlife as well as drinking water and the health of people in rural America,” said Michael Fry, the organization’s director of conservation advocacy.
The only good news is employees have two years to find other jobs, Camden Commission chairman David Rainer said.
“It’s another blow to the people of Camden County,” he said. “It’s very regrettable.”
The 850-acre tract at the end of Harrietts Bluff Road has been a manufacturing site for nearly 40 years. When the Thiokol plant produced trip flares there during the Vietnam War, an explosion claimed the lives of 34 people and injured 150 others.
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