New shelling plants are in the works, and one came online in August.
Farmers in southwest Alabama have joined together as Coastal Growers LLC, with plans to build a peanut shelling plant in Atmore. The cooperative shelling and storage facility on more than 60 acres and costing $87 million is expected to bring more than 100 jobs to the area, according to a release from Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey.
“The Coastal Growers facility in Atmore will become a vital resource for peanut farmers in Alabama and beyond by helping to make their operations more sustainable and profitable,” Ivey says. “I look forward to seeing the impact that this project is going to have for our farmers and for the region.”
Filling A Local Need
Coastal Growers’ Brad Smith and Joe Parker, two of the driving forces behind the project, say the Atmore location is the perfect site for the company.
“The peanuts we have in this area are among the highest quality available, yet we really have no infrastructure for shelling,” says Parker who is owner and general manager of Summerdale Peanut in Baldwin County.
“We looked at possibilities in other states but Atmore really did make the best sense for us in the end. The state was strongly supportive of our efforts the entire time,” Smith says. “They did a fantastic job of making us feel welcome in Escambia County.”
Mark Kaiser, a Baldwin County farmer, says the new facility will allow farmers to capture more profit from their own crops, giving them more control over their operations.
“This facility will be owned by the farmers who use it, and they’ll keep those profits themselves,” Kaiser says. “That’s good for both the farmers and for the immediate area. The money will keep turning over locally.”
An Economic Benefit
Paul Turner, an attorney representing the company, says the average wage in the plant will be more than $17 per hour for the 100-plus full-time workers. In addition, there will be temporary positions added during peak shelling times.
“We are excited to be able to announce this project and to bring peanut shelling to south Alabama. It will also bring economic benefit to the hard-working farmers of our state who so desperately need it,” Turner says.
“We offer our sincere gratitude to Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, Atmore Mayor Jim Staff and everyone else who made this project possible. Also bringing us to the Atmore area were the Alabama Farmers Federation and the Alabama Peanut Producers Association, both of which were vital in the project’s development,” he says.
Big Impact Expected
Alex Jones, president of UB Community Development LLC, a community development affiliate of United Bank, led efforts to secure financing for the project, using New Market Tax Credits, incentives and traditional financing. He says the impact across the region will be immense.
“We have farmers from one side of the state to the other who are involved in this, even in Florida and Mississippi and up the state into the Sand Mountain area,” Jones says. “This is a complex process and not the typical economic development project in any way. In the end, it’s going to mean a lot for our region, for Atmore, for Escambia County and our state.”
Atmore Mayor Jim Staff says the city welcomes Coastal Growers and is excited to be able to help the area’s farmers.
“It’s not just the jobs at the shelling plant itself, even as much opportunity as that will generate for the city,” Staff says. “It’s what we are able to do for our farmers and their families who have lived and worked here for generations. They have spent money in Atmore, and they are an important part of our community.”
On The Peanut Map
Jess Nicholas of Centerfire Economic, who serves as executive director of the Escambia County Industrial Development Authority, expects the facility to attract additional companies to the area.
“We worked hard to bring Coastal Growers here, and we’re very thankful they picked us. Thank you to Gov. Ivey for supporting our efforts. We’re on the map now as far as peanut production is concerned,” he says.
Glenn Spivey, president of Dothan’s Hollis & Spann Inc., will be leading construction efforts for the project. Spivey says the new facility, encompassing more than 400,000 square feet, will take about a year to build.
Delta Peanut Up And Going
The farmer-owned peanut shelling facility in Jonesboro, Arkansas, Delta Peanut, opened its doors in August. This first-of-its-kind facility in the area serves producers in Arkansas, plus the Missouri Bootheel and Northeast Louisiana. With the support of 60 producers and investors, Delta Peanut is expected to create 130 jobs with a $70 million output.
The shelling facility was constructed on a 71-acre site in the Craighead County Technology Park in Jonesboro and will shell 180,000 tons of peanuts annually when running at maximum capacity. Three on-site warehouses and one “surge” warehouse will hold approximately 60,000 tons of peanuts. The balance of the production is handled by partner buying points in Pocahontas and Marianna, Arkansas.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Ag Statistics Service, approximately 35,000 acres of peanuts were planted in the region this year. Before the addition of Delta Peanut, the crop had to be transported to shelling plants in West Texas or South Georgia. The shelling facility is also a good fit to nearby manufacturers in Memphis, Tennessee, and Little Rock and Fort Smith, Arkansas.
New Sheller For Texas A&M AgriLife Foundation Seed
Texas A&M AgriLife Foundation Seed is building a new peanut shelling facility in Vernon. TAFS is a buying point for foundation class peanuts grown locally under contract. This seed will be shelled, treated and bagged at the same facility for delivery to the licensed growers of those peanut varieties.
The new sheller will also help maintain the genetic purity of peanuts through the research process. Identity preservation is important to both plant breeders and manufacturers who require a specific variety.
The peanut sheller is expected to bring four full-time jobs to the city of Vernon. It is scheduled to be completed in late 2020.