Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, D. V.M., leased 2.4 acres of the state-owned Lacassine Industrial Park to the South Louisiana Rail Facility and Jeff Davis Parish in a signing ceremony today at the Jeff Davis Parish Police Jury office.
The South Louisiana Rail Facility (SLRF) is a limited liability company (LLC) comprised of 156 individual farmers and landowners from Jeff Davis, Acadia, St. Landry, Vermilion, Allen, Calcasieu, Cameron, Evangeline and St. Mary parishes. The SLRF will begin construction of four 40,000-bushel grain tanks in July. The plant is expected to begin operation by the fall of 2011. The facility will take advantage of high-speed rail loading technology that will allow area grain farmers access to new markets.
“My office, the legislature, police jury, area farmers and businessmen and the Jeff Davis Economic Development office have been working on this rural economic development project diligently for more than a year,” Strain said. “The new grain facility’s ability to load many rail cars at once will allow these area growers to compete in markets in Mexico and Central America that were previously unavailable.”
Jeff Davis Parish Police Jury President Donald Woods said the parish was very pleased to get the funding put together so quickly.
“The Jeff Davis Police Jury has been happy to work on this project which will add jobs to our local economy and be a positive economic boost for our farm community,” Woods said.
Chris Krielow, the president of the South Louisiana Rail Facility, said the grain facility will take advantage of existing infrastructure at Lacassine Industrial Park.
“There are two miles of rail spurs and that will give us access to hundreds of railcars,” Krielow said. “More trains means cheaper transportation costs.”
Senator Dan “Blade” Morrish and Representative John Guinn, both of Jennings, helped to procure $1.8 million in capital outlay money to partially fund the project. An additional $780,000 of funding was raised by the SLRF. The Police Jury has applied for a $200,000 Community Development Block Grant and an additional $200,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture for the grain plant.
“It’s never easy to get $1.8 million from the legislature, but when you have a group of committed farmers who dug inside their own pockets, that makes a whole lot of difference in Baton Rouge,” Morrish said. “That makes it a much easier project.”
“It took the efforts of a lot of farmers and other people to put this together,” Guinn said. “I think this will be a project we’ll all be proud of 20 years down the road.”
“It’s unheard of to get $1.8 million in capital investment from the legislature in one session, but we did it,” said Marion Fox, director of the Jeff Davis Parish Economic Development and Tourist Commission. “It was because of the investment from nine parishes.”
Woods and police jurors Mark Pousson and Bill Wild, both of Welsh, served on the parish committee that helped negotiate the lease with the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry.
The grain facility, when filled to capacity, will be able to load 40 rail cars in ten hours, Strain said.