Meadowbrook Farms, the Illinois pork-producer-based cooperative, has been in place since 2004 and is running into some turmoil.

The original design involved producer members supplying hogs for move through its $28 million pork slaughter and processing plant. The intent also was to bring producers closer to consumers who were willing to pay premium prices for high-quality, locally grown meat.

However, the membership is at odds as some producers contend that they've been underpaid for their hogs. A majority of the Belleville, Ill.-based cooperative's shareholders voted against a measure last week by critics who hoped to explore closing the enterprise, reports Associated Press. Only one-fifth of the 698,250 shares voted to dissolve the  enterprise. Members receive one share for every market hog they deliver to the plant.

Those wanting to close the plant accuse the Meadowbrook Farm's board of mismanagement, and contend that their concerns were not being heard. Members also have complained they're being paid $20 a head less for hogs than "fair-market value," reports AP. Meadowbrook pays producers according to the quality and quantity of meat their animals produce, not by live-hog weight.

The cooperative's membership is down to 118 producers versus 200 in 2002. Rather than buy an existing plant, Meadowbrook Farms organizers asked its farmer-owners to put up $13 million in equity to help finance a new operation with the latest technology.  It opened its meatpacking plant in Rantoul, Ill.

But Jim Burke, the cooperative's president and chief executive officer, says last week's vote has convinced him that the dissenters are a minority. He adds that the cooperative has had $2 million more in profits this year than in 2007, despite tight cash flow and credit markets.

"Nobody is happy about the world economy, about the fact that commodity pork prices have gone from record highs to almost record lows here in the last 120 days," Burke told AP.

Source: Associated Press