DENVER, COLORADO, U.S. — Ardent Mills LLC on May 10 announced plans to close four U.S. flour mills. The company said the closings reflected analysis of current and prospective flour demand and would enhance the company’s operating efficiency.

With a combined daily milling capacity of 23,600 cwts, the mills are located in Macon, Georgia, U.S. (6,500 cwts); Rush City, Minnesota, U.S. (10,000 cwts); Loudonville, Ohio, U.S. (4,500 cwts) and Red Lion, Pennsylvania, U.S. (2,600 cwts). The aggregate capacity to be shuttered equates to 4.8% of Ardent Mills’ 490,800 cwts of U.S. flour milling capacity across 36 mills. With its three Canadian mills, Ardent Mills daily flour milling capacity totals 530,300 cwts. All figures are based on data in the 2019 Grain & Milling Annual, published by Sosland Publishing Company.

The Macon, Loudonville and Red Lion mills will operate until June 30. The Rush City mill will close during the first quarter of 2020. The Macon and Red Lion mills grind soft wheat, Loudonville is a hard wheat mill and the Rush City mill principally grinds spring wheat and durum. The company said it is assisting employees affected by the closing with placement efforts at other Ardent Mills locations, career support and additional transitional assistance.

Daniel P. Dye, chief executive officer of Ardent Mills, said the company is committed to continuing to operate and investing in its other 35 flour mills in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.

“These decisions are difficult, especially because of the impact on our valued team members,” Dye said. “However, this is a critical step to put greater focus and investment on the rest of our plants. Our growth plan calls for strategic investments in our unmatched network of community mills; these changes allow us to grow accordingly and better meet customer needs.”

The Macon mill is Ardent Mills only facility in Georgia, but the company operates three other mills in the Southeast — in Decatur, Alabama, U.S.; Tampa, Florida, U.S.; and Chattanooga, Tennessee, U.S. Ardent Mills will be building a new flour mill in Tampa but has not yet announced how large the mill will be. It is replacing a mill in Tampa with 14,500 cwts of daily milling capacity.

In Minnesota, Ardent Mills operates three mills in addition to Rush City — in Hastings, Lake City and Mankato. In Ohio, the company operates one mill in addition to Loudonville — in Columbus.  In Pennsylvania, Ardent Mills operates three mills in addition to Red Lion — in Martins Creek, Mount Pocono and York.

William Stoufer, president of Ardent Mills, said customers of the mills that will close will be transitioned to other Ardent Mills facilities.

Notwithstanding the weak flour demand outlook, Dye expressed optimism about the milling market.

“Ardent Mills’ vision and values remain the foundation of our organization and will carry us forward,” Dye said. “Our dedicated team is committed to working closely with customers, farmers, and suppliers, and bringing innovation to the market with strategic moves like the introduction of The Annex by Ardent Mills. The future of grain-based solutions is filled with opportunities.”

The Ardent Mills news followed by about two weeks an ADM Milling Co. announcement that it would close flour mills in Salina, Kansas, U.S., and Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.

Like the ADM mills, the Ardent Mills to be closed are rich in history. In the case of the Ohio mill, the closing will end flour milling in Loudonville that began in less than 60 years after the republic was established. The 1835 mill there operated until it was destroyed by fire in 1922 and was replaced by the mill currently in operation.

The Rush City location was the first mill acquired by Farmers’ Union Grain Terminal Association, a predecessor cooperative to CHS, Inc. GTA purchased Amber Milling in 1942. The mill was built in 1910 and converted to a durum mill in 1926.

The mill in Macon was established in 1913 as a 150-cwt facility operating as Birdsey Flour Mills.

Ardent Mills is a joint venture of Conagra Brands, Inc.; Cargill and CHS. Conagra and Cargill each own 44% stakes in the company with CHS owning the remaining 12%.