Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and the South Louisiana Rail Facility (SLRF) announced the development of an $11.6 million rice mill in Jefferson Davis Parish, La. SLRF is owned by the Jefferson Davis Parish Police Jury and can handle up to 25,000 bu. of rice per hour for storage and export.
SLRF will invest $10 million to equip the new facility, with construction slated to begin in September 2020. SLRF was launched in 2010 to receive, preserve and distribute paddy rice to international markets. SLRF is partnering with the India-based Agreeta Farmer Network to optimize the facility’s logistics and to prepare local farm products for international markets. The SLRF rice mill will have an expected life span of several decades and will serve hundreds of rice farmers and investors in southwest Louisiana.
“Rice cultivation and distribution has been a bedrock agribusiness for our state since its earliest days, and today I join the South Louisiana Rail Facility in announcing a new chapter in its history,” Edwards said. “The South Louisiana Rail Facility’s new rice mill will reward the hard work of more than 200 Louisiana rice farmers with added value for their operations and diversified products for international markets. This new facility will be built to last and to provide opportunities for Louisiana farmers for decades to come.”
Development of the 15,000 sq. ft. facility will result in the creation of 20 construction jobs. SLRF expects construction to be completed by January 2021, and hiring for the new on-site jobs will begin soon after that.
“The South Louisiana Rail Facility is excited to partner with Agreeta to continue to provide new marketing avenues to the region’s rice growers,” SLRF manager Mark Pousson said. “This collaboration will ensure that sustainably sourced Louisiana rice is available to consumers in southwest Louisiana and beyond.”
SLRF helps Louisiana farmers market rough rice internationally for more competitive prices. The facility will be situated on land owned by the Louisiana Agricultural Finance Authority, which will retain ownership of the mill. With the support of Agreeta and the ultimate increase in international activity, the project represents a major international and agricultural win for Louisiana.
“Investment in agricultural infrastructure will markedly grow our rural and state economy,” Louisiana commissioner of agriculture and forestry Dr. Mike Strain said. “Louisiana produces rice valued at more than $350 million annually. The new rice mill in Jeff Davis Parish will give our farmers another avenue to add value to and sell locally produced rice. Value-added processing not only adds greater value to our crop but also increases our ability to market our rice domestically and internationally."
LED began discussing the potential project with SLRF and Agreeta in April. To secure the project, the state of Louisiana is providing $1.6 million to SLRF through the state’s performance-based Economic Development Award Program, which is designated for infrastructure needs on site and at the mill.
“Adding value to the crops our farmers grow brings economic benefits to the producers and the economy,” said Marion Fox, president and chief executive officer of the Jeff Davis Parish Economic Development, Tourism & Chamber of Commerce. “Agriculture is a huge economic driver in Jeff Davis Parish, and we are striving to continue our way of life.”
The new project will create seven new direct jobs and 28 new indirect jobs, for a total of 35 new jobs in Louisiana’s southwest region.