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Strain says Lamb Weston sweet potato plant adds to unprecedented agricultural infrastructure investm

August 11, 2009

Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M., said he expects to see a significant increase in Louisiana sweet potato production with the start up of the new ConAgra Foods Lamb Weston sweet potato processing facility planned for Delhi in Richland Parish.
The sweet potato plant is scheduled to open in November of 2010.
“Sweet potatoes are one of the nation’s hottest food items,” Strain said. “National consumption is up 21 percent over the last five years. It seems like everyone across the country has discovered what we’ve known in Louisiana for years, that sweet potatoes taste great and Louisiana’s sweet potatoes are the best.”
“With the expected help from Lamb Weston, I think the smaller Louisiana row crop farmer will now have a chance to cultivate sweet potatoes, a high-value crop,” Strain said.
Strain said Louisiana farmers currently have 13,500 acres in sweet potato production, but that figure could increase significantly and surpass 25,000 acres, the norm in the late 1990s.
“Lamb Weston is lining up national quick-service restaurant chains to buy high-quality sweet potato fries,” Strain said. “State farmers have a real opportunity to be part of the sweet potato supply and demand chain.”
Strain said Delhi is a perfect location to handle expanding production anticipated in neighboring states in response to the Louisiana processing facility.
“The plant is strategically located with easy access to rail and water transportation,” Strain said. “Not only will Louisiana continue to be a leader in sweet potato production and research; we now have one of the most unique processing plants in the nation, with great value-added economic potential.”
Strain said the state Economic Development office committed between $32.4 million and $37.4 million from the economic development megafund toward completion of the project. The state requires Lamb Weston to employ a minimum of 275 workers when the factory goes into production in 2010 and 500 employees by 2015.
The average salary of the jobs the plant creates will be between $34,000 and $35,000, Lamb Weston officials said.
“This has been a year of unprecedented growth in the state’s agricultural industries,” Strain said. “New investment and partnership with a viable poultry player in north Louisiana and a new frozen chicken processing facility in New Orleans will keep the state poultry industry strong for years to come. State investment in a bulk rice loading facility servicing the Port of Lake Charles has been approved and will benefit southwestern Louisiana.
“Rural economic development continues to be one of the top priorities of my administration and Lamb Weston’s sweet potato processing plant is exactly the type of project that will maintain economic stability, attract jobs and promote growth in northeast Louisiana.

“Louisiana is an agricultural state and we continue to draw excellent support from the legislature. Senator Francis Thompson and Representative Charles “Bubba” Chaney were actively involved in bringing ConAgra Lamb Weston to Delhi,” Strain said.