DECATUR, ILLINOIS, US — Archer Daniels Midland Co. on June 19 announced plans to close the company’s flour mill in Los Angeles, California, US.

A definitive date has not been set, but employees have been informed by the company the mill will close at some point this year. ADM said the decision to close the mill was not prompted in any way by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Our LA mill is 87 years old, and after examining many options, we determined it is unlikely we can continue to compete effectively in this market with that facility,” the company said. 

ADM has been active reconfiguring its constellation of North American flour mills over the past several years. In 2019, the company dedicated a large new flour mill in Mendota, Illinois, US, and closed older facilities in Chicago, Illinois, US; Minneapolis, Minnesota, US; and Salina, Kansas, US. The company in 2018 completed a major modernization of its flour mill in Enid, Oklahoma, US.

“We’ve made significant investments over the past several years to modernize and realign our North American wheat milling footprint, including opening our new state-of-the-art facility in Mendota, Illinois,” the company said. “We’ve also made some difficult but important decisions about our ability to compete with older facilities in certain markets. After exploring a wide variety of alternatives, we have informed colleagues of our intention to end production at our Los Angeles wheat mill later this year.”

ADM said it will be selling the property and warehouse and working with customers to ensure a smooth transition.

The ADM Los Angeles mill has daily milling capacity of 11,100 cwts and is one of three ADM mills in the western United States. It is the company’s only flour mill in California.

ADM has owned the Los Angeles flour mill since 1981, when the company acquired the Centennial Mills Division of Seattle, Washington, US-based Univar Corp. The Centennial business was based in Portland, Oregon, US, and also operated mills in Portland as well as Spokane, Washington, US. The acquisition of Centennial lifted ADM to become the largest flour milling company in the United States, with 119,000 cwts of daily milling capacity. ADM replaced The Pillsbury Co., which at the time had 114,000 cwts.

Initially a 2,000-cwt flour mill, the Los Angeles facility was built in 1934, when two Viault brothers (Arthur and Max) exited another family business in Los Angeles, California Milling Corp. and established V-O Milling Co.

The Viault brothers operated V-O Milling until 1945, when the business was sold to The Quaker Oats Co.

Centennial acquired the mill from Quaker in 1972. At the time the mill had 2,400 cwts of daily milling capacity in addition to a 600-cwt whole wheat unit. Centennial increased capacity to 4,000 cwts in 1974 and to 9,000 cwts in 1977, with the addition of a second milling unit. When ADM acquired the mill in 1981, the company immediately announced plans to double capacity with the addition of a 10,000-cwt milling unit. The expansion was not completed.

With the closing of the Los Angeles mill, ADM will have shuttered flour mills with a combined capacity of 40,100 cwts. The new Mendota mill has daily milling capacity of 30,000 cwts, meaning the company’s overall milling capacity will be reduced as a result of the various moves by 10,100 cwts, or 3.5%, to 276,100 cwts, according to data from the 2020 Grain & Milling Annual, published by Sosland Publishing Co. ADM will remain the second largest flour milling company in the United States, operating 20 flour mills.

After the ADM mill in the nation’s most populous state is closed, California will slip to the nation’s second largest milling state as measured by daily capacity, but just barely. California milling capacity will be reduced to 112,220 cwts, compared with 112,305 cwts in Minnesota, which will be largest, and 108,628 cwts in Kansas, which ranks third. In terms of number of operating flour mills, California will be in a three-way-tie for first with Kansas and Pennsylvania, all at 11 flour mills.