$80 million deal official

Bonnie Bolden
Carole Fowler (left) and David Fowler (right) of Farmerville spoke with Governor Jindal about the future of the chicken industry.

Jindal referred to the area's "Fighting Farmers" throughout his talk.

Governor Bobby Jindal addressed a large crowd at the Family Life Center in Farmerville Saturday afternoon about the state’s efforts to ensure the Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. facility was sold to Foster Farms, a California-based chicken producer.

The governor explained that while the sales agreement is a vital step, and possibly the most difficult part of the process, the work is not complete.

“The tomb is empty,” Jindal said. “We’re not at Easter Sunday yet.”

While the $80 million dollar agreement, to be split evenly between the state and Foster Farms is cause for celebration, Jindal said, now is not the time to be complacent.

For the plan to work, the bankruptcy court must accept the agreement, an anti-trust must be filed, and legislative help must be obtained.

On Friday, representatives from Foster Farms began the due diligence process of inspecting the Farmerville facility; for the company to begin operating, they need a signed purchase agreement and a cooperative endeavor between the company and the state must be in place. Jindal said, the state will require the new company to hire locally for between five and 10 years as a condition of the agreement.

Jindal said an additional $20 million will be invested in new equipment and improvements at the plant under Foster Farms, again with a dollar for dollar match.

The governor said his team worked for the “Fighting Farmers” who came to them and said “We don’t want a hand-out. We don’t want a bailout. We just want to go back to work.”

“The state has been more aggressive than we’ve ever been before and for good reason.” Jindal explained that 5,000 jobs in the state would be directly affected if the processing plant closed, taking more than $150 million out of the budgets of both the state and local governments over a 10-year period. “This is about putting our people to work.”

“This is a uniquely innovative and creative,” U.S. Representative John Fleming said.

According to the governor, the deal was reached due to their efforts of many people. Every chicken producer that could be located was called, and he said he learned more about the industry than he ever planned to.

Commissioner of Agriculture & Forestry Mike Strain DVM said the chicken production industry generates $1.7 billion dollars annually in this state; currently, they are trying to expand cold storage facilities  in New Orleans that would make international shipping more likely.

U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander said he’s been to New Orleans twice and Cuba once to find more avenues for poultry export.

“You keep them coming; we’ll find someone to eat them,” Alexander told the crowd.

State Rep. Sam Little told the audience that the effects the closure was not just limited to Farmerville and Union Parish; a potential closure could affect crop sales in Morehouse, West Carroll and other parishes.

Jindal said when the closure was announced, the entire state hurt with the Farmerville community.

“This is a day of rejoicing for our entire state,” Jindal said.

"This is not the time to be complacent," Jindal cautioned the audience.