State seeking to lease site of failed syrup mill in Lacassine

BATON ROUGE (AP) — The state Department of Agriculture and Forestry is seeking to lease the site of a sugar cane syrup mill near Lacassine that operated for only about three months before the $72 million, state-backed project foundered.

The syrup mill in Jeff Davis Parish was touted by former state Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Bob Odom as a boon for Southwest Louisiana cane farmers.

The ultimate plan was to transform the mill into an ethanol plant, but the project failed and left the state holding the bag on millions of dollars in debt after plans to sell the mill to a private company fell through.

Department of Agriculture and Forestry spokeswoman Veronica Mosgrove told The Advocate a Peruvian company has since agreed to buy the mill for $7 million and will dismantle the facility and ship it to Peru.

"We are going to make sure we get the best deal we can for the people of Louisiana," said Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, who took office in 2008 and inherited the syrup mill from Odom.

The Louisiana Agricultural Finance Authority has scheduled a public meeting on Nov. 21 at the mill site near Lacassine to give interested parties a look at the property and a chance to ask questions about the lease proposal.

Strain said several companies already have expressed an interest in the property, which offers easy access to a rail line, is near Interstate 10 and is close to a major port in Lake Charles.