WATERLOO, IA (AP)--After 18 months of cutbacks because of a stalled farm economy, Deere & Co. said it was increasing production at its Waterloo Works. Employees have been told to plan on working overtime this summer.

The production increases--necessary to meet market demands--apply to the East Donald Street Tractor Works and Deere's Westfield Avenue site downtown, officials said April 18.

The company also said it would hire additional workers if needed.

"We could hire as many as 50, but that number is still very uncertain depending on what happens with the market and production," Deere spokesman Ken Golden said.

Over the past 18 months, Deere's Waterloo plants saw a series of temporary-layoff "inventory adjustment" shutdowns; the layoff of some 140 workers at the John Deere Waterloo Foundry; and the company's offering of early retirement programs.

Employment at the Waterloo plants is down to its lowest level in 30 years--about 4,200 workers. Deere is not only Waterloo's largest manufacturing employer, but the largest in the state. There are also plants in Ankeny, Davenport, Dubuque and Ottumwa.

Company officials said Waterloo production was cut back more drastically in 1999 than market demand dictated, so that production to meet market demand this year would result in an increase in work at the Waterloo operations.

Nearly all of the laid-off Foundry workers were recalled in February, said officials with United Auto Workers Local 838, which represents Deere wage employees.

Additional inventory adjustment shutdowns were canceled, and a company "resource pool" of several hundred employees without a permanent work assignment has been reduced by at least half.

The announcement is "absolutely" good news, said Jerry Northey, UAW Local 838 president. He said factory production workers have already logged overtime since Jan. 1.

"Anytime you have more work than before, it's better all around," Northey said. "The workers are enjoying the overtime right now."

Northey said that if excessive overtime continues, the company should hire more workers to handle the production.

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