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Rexburg cheesemaker that signed Idaho cheese deal with Walmart to close

StateImpact Idaho is reporting that the Rexburg, Idaho cheesemaker that just closed a deal with Walmart to provide Idaho-brand cheese is shutting down. Nelson-Ricks Creamery Co. will still supply the cheese, but instead of making part of it it itself, it will buy it from other Idaho cheese manufacturers and cut and package it at its Salt Lake City, Utah facility. The creamery was founded in 1907 and has struggled in the recession; its longtime lender decided not to renew its line of credit. It will lay off more than 15 people when the Rexburg facility closes this month. You can read StateImpact's full report here.

Walmart works with Idaho Dept. of Ag to start selling locally made “Idaho Cheese”

Though Idaho is the nation's third-largest producer of cheese, the Idaho State Department of Agriculture says Idahoans who want to join the “locavore” movement have often had trouble finding Idaho-made cheese to buy. The reason: Most Idaho cheese is sold to food companies that put their own brand on the package and distribute their products nationwide, with no mention of where the cheese originated. Now, however, retail giant Walmart is signing on with the department's “Idaho Preferred” program, selling Idaho-made cheese under an “Idaho Cheese” brand decorated with a blue image of the state's shape and the blue-and-gold Idaho Preferred logo.

“This project has been in the works for a long time,” said Leah Clark, manager of the Idaho Preferred program, who worked with Walmart on it. “They were very persistent in their efforts to encourage Idaho cheese companies to find a way to identify local cheese in their stores.”

The new Walmart Idaho brand cheese will be provided by Nelson-Ricks Creamery near Rexburg, which will produce some of the varieties in its own plant and buy others from other Idaho cheese producers, including Glanbia in Twin Falls. The varieties will include mild and medium cheddar, Monterey jack, Colby jack, pepper jack and mozzarella. The Idaho cheese goes on sale at southern Idaho stores this week, with plans to extend distribution to North Idaho stores later this fall.

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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