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DIXON —Those in the Bay Area sipping a V8, eating chips and salsa or pouring a jar of spaghetti sauce may be getting a little closer to their food when Campbell Soup Co. expands its tomato processing facility here and uses more locally-grown produce, the company reported Thursday.

The $23 million expansion will increase the plant only 2,400 square feet but boost production by 15 percent with new infrastructure and equipment used to process nine other vegetables for its beverages, soups and sauces, said Stephen Pierce, Solano County spokesman.

Campbell's beverages include V8 vegetable juice, V8 V-Fusion and V8 Splash drinks. The Campbell Soup Co. was founded in 1869, and includes the brands Campbell's, Pepperidge Farm, Arnott's, and V8. Campbell reportedly plans to increase agriculture production in neighboring Colusa, Contra Costa, Monterey, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Solano, Sutter and Yolo counties.

Built in 1975, the Dixon plant is Campbell's largest tomato processing facility and employs approximately 180 people.

Corporate spokesman Anthony Sanzio said that there may be more positions open in the expansion, but that it's more likely to benefit current employees by extending their seasonal employment for two months, from May to October versus July through October.

The plant will also handle more organic vegetables for its brands, including Campbell's Organic Tomato juice and V8 vegetable juice, Prego pasta sauce and Pace salsa. Pierce said that the plant will be potentially using beets, carrots and organic produce at the facility.

According to Solano County, tomato processing is the fourth-largest crop by value at $20.8 million, just below alfalfa and above walnuts.

"Agriculture is still a major industry in Solano County and the processing means that it will provide long-term contracts for local farmers," said Michael Amman, president of the Solano County Economic Development Corp. "We knew that in order to sustain agriculture in Solano County we needed further processing and packaging plants."

The relationship between Campbell and its neighbors was not always so good.

In 2006, Campbell filed a lawsuit against the city of Dixon for the ill-fated Dixon Downs racetrack which was planned near the plant. A year later, the company dropped the lawsuit after negotiations. The project was rejected by voters.

Barbara E. Hernandez covers real estate. Reach her at 925-952-5063 or bhernandez@bayareanewsgroup.com.