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SOUTH ST. PAUL, Minn. - The last beef-packing plant in South St. Paul says it's temporarily shutting down to an "extremely short supply of cattle.

The St. Paul Pioneer Pressreports Dakota Premium Foods is idling 300 employees. Its parent company, American Foods Group, says it doesn't know how long the shutdown will last.

The number of cattle in the U.S. has been declining for eight years, and the severe drought across much of the western U.S. has worsened the shortage. The number of cattle and calves in the U.S. is at its lowest level since the early 1950s.

South St. Paul was once the heart of the Upper Midwest meatpacking industry. Swift and Armour once had major plants there, but they closed by the early 1980s as the economics of the industry changed.

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