A Louisiana state budget panel this morning awarded more than $37 million to agriculture giant ConAgra to build a sweet potato processing and freezing plant near Delhi in Northeast Louisiana.
The Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget approved the grant utilizing money in the Louisiana Mega-Project Development Fund.
The 22-3 vote came over objections of Bruce Foods owner Si Brown, who said the state shouldn’t give such a large amount of money to a company that will compete with his operation, and Acadiana lawmakers on the panel. Bruce Foods operates a vegetable processing, canning and freezing plant in Iberia Parish.
Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret said ConAgra is a Fortune 200 company that will provide jobs to 500 to 600 employees at salaries well over the average rate in the region, which he called “among the poorest parts, not only in our state but the entire country.
The state could see as much as $80 million in revenues when the plant is in full operation in about three years, he said. However, “if the company underperforms, it has to pay us back, plus interest.”
Sen. Francis Thompson, D-Delhi, the major proponent of the project, said he has “never seen a plant of this magnitude locate in this region” and that it could “change the whole footprint and go from poverty to prosperity.”