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Virginia leaders urge caution in handling lawsuit over Harrisonburg poultry plant acquisition

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A Virginia delegation is urging the U.S. Department of Justice to consider the economic impact of its antitrust lawsuit against the acquisition of Tyson Food Inc.’s poultry plant in Harrisonburg.

George Inc.’s purchase of the plant in March prevented the plant from likely closure, saving 500 jobs and 121 grower contracts with Shenandoah Valley, according to a letter sent to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

The letter was signed by Virginia Sens. Mark Warner and Jim Webb, Gov. Bob McDonnell, and U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-6.

“A legal victory that leads to a shuttered plant would be no victory for these workers, and would do little to support your department’s legitimate role in safeguarding competition in the marketplace,” the letter states.

The justice department is challenging the sale because of a reduction in competition among poultry companies. The case is pending in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia.

The letter asks Holder to “seek a resolution that will ensure that this important facility in Harrisonburg can continue contributing jobs and revenue to the local economy.” It does not ask for an outright withdrawal of the case.

“This legal action is not helpful at a time when we are focused on jobs and economic recovery,” Warner said in a statement. “Our joint letter demonstrates a bipartisan effort to try to save more than 500 jobs in the Shenandoah Valley and preserve growers’ contracts that help to sustain the region’s economy.”

In 2010, farm sales of Virginia chickens and turkeys accounted for more than $760 million. 

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