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ome to a strong range of farm and forest firms, Louisiana’s $12 billion agribusiness sector also encompasses food processing, wood and paper manufacturing, and fuel generation. Led by Hunt Forest Products and RoyOMartin expansions, the state’s forest products sector experienced steady growth in 2018. Value-added food projects emerged as well, with US Foods, Riceland Crawfish and Richard’s Cajun Foods launching expansions across Louisiana.
“Louisiana’s agriculture and forestry sector represents a multibillion-dollar enterprise that touches the life of everyone in Louisiana, and many across the world,” said Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M. “From sustainable row crops such as sugarcane and soybeans, to world-class fisheries, livestock production and vast forestlands, Louisiana is advancing our agribusiness industry through value-added projects. We’re proud to work with LED on projects that create new value for our state through food manufacturing, fuel generation and other applications.”
Drax Biomass operates two Louisiana manufacturing facilities that produce wood pellets, which are shipped from the Port of Baton Rouge to the United Kingdom and then converted to a renewable power plant fuel. In 2018, Drax moved its corporate headquarters from Atlanta to Monroe, Louisiana, and Drax now employs 190 in the state.
RoyOMartin, the trade name of Alexandria-based Martco LLC, employs 1,100 people at its oriented-strand board plant in Oakdale and its plywood and solid-wood plant in Chopin. In 2018, the company announced it will invest $8 million at its Chopin plywood and solid-wood plant to install a new dry kiln designed to increase timber production. Additionally, the company will connect to natural gas pipelines, increase log capacity, and expand the facility’s shipping and finishing area.
“With a highly skilled workforce and an abundance of natural resources, RoyOMartin has become a leader in the timber industry and a major economic driver for Louisiana,” says Gov. John Bel Edwards. “We are proud that this company continues to invest in our state, build on its leadership role, and create great new jobs for our people.”
A family-owned company, Ruston-based Hunt Forest Products joined investment partner Tolko Industries Ltd. of Canada in building a state-of-the-art $115 million lumber mill in Urania, a LaSalle Parish community in the heart of Louisiana’s forestlands. The sawmill project will create 107 new direct jobs with an average annual salary of more than $46,000, plus benefits. Louisiana Economic Development estimates the project also will result in another 307 new indirect jobs, for a total of over 400 new jobs in Central Louisiana. Construction of the mill began in April 2018, with operations started in early 2019.
Other investors leveraging Louisiana’s agribusiness resources in 2018 include:
- US Foods, investing over $50 million and creating 45 new direct jobs while retaining 140 jobs at its Jefferson Parish distribution center.
- Riceland Crawfish, building a $3 million, 33,000-square-foot expansion for its crawfish and alligator meat processing business while expanding employment from 50 to 60.
- Richard’s Cajun Foods, making a $2.7 million expansion to its Church Point food manufacturing operations that will retain 38 jobs and result in 28 new direct and indirect jobs.
“Richard’s has been a staple of our community for many years, as well as a cultural distinction of our Cajun cuisine,” Church Point Mayor Russell Stelly said. “An expansion like this would be great for any community. The increase in the company’s production is not just expanding Richard’s brand, but it’s also expanding Church Point’s name through the growth of one of our largest employers.”