February 27, 2017
By Debra Davis
Members of the Alabama Legislature attended the Wayne Farms South Alabama Feed Mill opening in Ozark, Jan. 10. From left are Alabama Reps. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, and Donnie Chesteen, R-Geneva; Ag & Industries Commissioner John McMillan; Rep. Paul Lee, R-Dothan and House Agriculture Committee Chair Rep. David Sessions, R-Grand Bay.
Wayne Farms’ new South Alabama Feed Mill near Ozark opened Jan. 10 and will soon provide feed to millions of chickens on hundreds of Wiregrass farms. But the massive concrete structure is more than chicken feed. The $55-million project represents jobs and economic growth.
“This project means the world to our county,” said Dale County Commission Chairman Mark Blankenship. “I think we may become known as the chicken capital of the world, and that’s fine with us. It means jobs and opportunity for our citizens.”
The new 50,000-square-foot plant is 232 feet tall and sits on 165 acres. It is part of a $150-million project by Wayne Farms in southeast Alabama that included the mill, expected farm expansions and updated processing facilities.
Dubbed one of the largest feed mills in North America, the facility can produce 25,000 tons of feed a week using the main ingredients of corn and soybeans.
In addition to the 80 jobs the new mill creates, Wayne Farms Chief Operating Officer Clint Rivers said the facility’s payroll will pump $3 million annually into the local economy.
“But this mill means more than those jobs,” Rivers said. “This feed mill is connected to the $60 million investment in our Dothan processing plant that provides 500 new jobs for that area. So when you ask which came first, the processing plant or the feed mill, it begins with the feed mill.”
Wayne Farms has three poultry processing facilities in southeast Alabama — Union Springs, Enterprise and Dothan. The new mill will deliver feed to a network of farms in and around those areas who grow chickens specifically for Wayne Farms.
The new mill also is expected to be a boon for local row crop farmers since company officials expect to buy 3 million bushels of corn annually from area farmers. However, most of the corn and soybeans used by the mill will be delivered by rail cars. A state-of-the-art rail and elevator system at the mill can unload 90 carloads of grain in 15 hours.
Rivers thanked local and state government officials whom he said were pivotal in the project’s success, including Alabama Ag and Industries Commissioner John McMillan.
“It’s a big deal for Alabama and especially this part of the state,” McMillan told more than 100 people present for the ceremonial ribbon cutting, Jan. 10.
McMillan took the opportunity to thank Alabama legislators at the event, reminding them of the importance of agriculture in the state.
McMillan also urged legislators to support funding for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation permits required for many Alabama poultry and livestock farms.
New Mill Makes A Mark
- The mill created 80 new jobs, increasing annual area payroll by $3 million.
- Wayne Farms invested $55 million to build the mill.
- Forty-eight family farms committed to build 165 new poultry houses, a $60 million total investment.
- Over 3 million bushels of locally produced corn will be purchased yearly.
- The Wiregrass accounts for 35 percent of Wayne Farms’ production.