$21M rice mill should be complete by next harvest

Published 8:49 pm Wednesday, September 22, 2021

JENNINGS  —  Construction is set to begin later this fall on a new $21 million rice mill at the Lacassine Industrial Park.

The Jeff Davis Parish Police Jury unanimously approved a recommendation Wednesday from the South Louisiana Rail Facility to award the construction bid to Hogenson Construction Company of West Fargo, N.D.

Hogenson submitted the lowest bid on the project in the amount of $8.4 million. A second bid of $11 million was submitted by Alfred Palma, LLC of Lake Charles.

The 15,000-square-foot building, which will house the processing facility for the rice mill, will be built on a three- to four-acre site adjacent to the existing rail facility. Equipment for the facility will be provided through a partnership with India-based Agreeta Farmer Network.

Funding for the project is being provided by a $1.6 million grant from the Louisiana Economic Development (LED) and $2.4 million from the Louisiana Agriculture Finance Authority (LAFA) coupled with $4.7 million from over 200 farmers and businessmen in South Louisiana and Southeast Texas. The project will not cost the Police Jury.

Rail Facility Secretary and Treasurer Kyle Todd said the rice mill is good news for the parish because it will be another option for farmers in South Louisiana and Southeast Texas to sell their crops.

“This will give rice farmers another option to sell their rice on the market, along with all the other options they have,” Todd said.

Police Jury President Steve Eastman said the facility will be good for economic development in the parish by providing jobs and opening up global markets for rice farmers, similar to what the rail facility has done in the past.

The rail facility can handle up to 25,000 bushels of rice per hour for storage and export.

Rail Facility Manager Mark Pousson said the facility will provide 10 permanent jobs, along with nearly two dozen construction jobs and other ag-related jobs.

Construction is expected to begin by the end of the year, and the project should be completed by next spring in time for the next rice harvest, Pousson said.

Gov. John Bel Edwards and the South Louisiana Rail Facility announced the partnership with Agreeta to build the rice mill in June 2020. Two hurricanes, the pandemic, an ice storm and flooding have delayed the project, Todd said.