Rural Revitalization Efforts Intensify

Natural Resources and Superior Logistics Make Rural Louisiana a Modern Agribusiness Hub

Emerging technology expands global food and renewable energy markets

Natural Resources and Superior Logistics Make Rural Louisiana a Modern Agribusiness Hub

Supreme Rice plays an important role in Louisiana’s rice industry, the third largest in the country by production. (Supreme Rice photo)

Louisiana’s agribusiness industry is driven by 14 million acres of forestland, a network of 30,000 farms and an entrepreneurial spirit that fuels the modernization of America’s oldest economic sector.

The state’s fertile land makes it a national leader for rice and sugar crops while also providing a base for three of the largest wood products companies in the world, whose waste products support Louisiana’s emerging biomass supply chain. Underpinning it all is a logistical network powered by Louisiana’s central U.S. location and extensive port system, providing access to America’s heartland as well as worldwide markets through the Gulf of Mexico.

Boasting six interstate highways, six Class I railroads and six deep draft ports, Louisiana provides a crucial food supply and distribution role. Louisiana’s port system handles approximately 60% of all raw grain exports in the U.S.

A vast generational workforce, the byproduct of Louisiana’s rich agricultural history, is supplemented by higher education programs to ensure agribusiness companies have access to a highly-skilled labor pool. Louisiana State University is one of the few land-grant, sea-grant and space-grant universities in the nation. Community and technical college programs, coupled with research university curricula, provide Louisiana’s agribusiness workforce with strong skills, background and expertise.

Rice legacy evolving 

Supreme Rice, one of the largest rice-milling operations in Louisiana, announced in May an investment of $16.2 million to develop parboil facilities in Crowley and Mermentau for a new line of ready-to-eat products.  

The expansion will create 20 direct new jobs, and LED estimates the project will result in 79 indirect jobs, for a total of nearly 100 new jobs in Acadia Parish. The company will retain 181 jobs at its current locations.  

In Mermentau, the company will build a new greenfield facility for parboil operations, which will partially cook the rice for its new product line. In Crowley, it will develop a new parboil mill inside its existing facility.

Established in Kaplan in 1936, Supreme Rice moved to Crowley the following year and has been headquartered there since. Founder Joseph Doré built and implemented one of the first drying units in the industry, allowing the company to expand its reach globally. Processing more than 1 billion pounds annually, Supreme Rice produces packages of white long-grain, medium-long-grain, jasmine and brown long-grain rice that are shipped to more than 50 countries. 

To secure the project in Acadia Parish, the state provided Supreme Rice with a competitive incentive package that included $750,000 from the state’s Economic Development Award Program. The company is also expected to utilize the state’s Quality Jobs and Enterprise Zone programs.

Leading in sugar processing and refining

Louisiana is the second-largest producer of sugar in the country, dishing out nearly 2 million short tons from its 2021-22 harvest. The sugar sector employs nearly 17,000 throughout the state and has a $3 billion annual economic impact. Sugar production has been on the rise in recent years thanks to the adoption of high-yielding sugarcane varieties, along with investments in new harvesting combines. 

Two-thirds of Louisiana’s raw sugarcane is processed and refined by Gramercy-based Louisiana Sugar Refining. LSR’s white sugar refinery is capable of processing 1 million tons of sugar each year and is readying itself to handle more. An upcoming expansion will boost LSR’s processing capacity by 50% and diversify the company by producing powdered and large grain sugar — products that sell for more than white sugar, meaning more money for farmers.