Old St. James mill will be opened again

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 22, 2008


Staff Reporter

VACHERIE – A Louisiana-based international investment group is making life sweeter in St. James parish with their commitment to an abandoned Vacherie sugar mill, along with future plans for a plant to produce advanced biofuels.

Representatives from Louisiana Green Fuels Group (LGFG) joined area farmers and officials from St. James Parish to announce the reopening of the St. James Sugar Mill. The move offers a new opportunity for area farmers to process their raw sugar cane closer to home.

“This is a big plus for the parish,” said St. James Parish President Dale Hymel. “I applaud the risk these investors are taking, and I see the excitement from the farmers in the area in this new opportunity for their crops.”

Hymel said the plant once operated as a parish sugar co-op until it was closed down about three years ago.

Randal Johnson, spokesman for LGFG, said the sugar mill has been completely renovated and is slated for opening in time for the farmers’ harvest season in October.

“The plant was in great condition, and we should be able to get it operational very quickly,” said Johnson. “Getting it up in running in October will allow farmers to harvest this year’s cane closer to home, which will positively affect their profits. The mill is also in a key location along the nations largest water transportation route – the Mississippi River.”

In addition to the opening of the St. James Mill, Johnson said LGFG has also invested up to $100 million into development of a 25 million gallon ethanol plant near the site, which will use processed cane to produced cleaner burning fuels.

“The plant will implement a successful Brazilian model of ethanol production from sucrose-based crops,” said Johnson.

Hymel said based on past operation at the St. James Mill, the new operation could produce 80 new jobs. Johnson said during the grinding season that number would balloon to about 130 jobs.

Johnson said additional jobs would open up when construction begins on the ethanol plant. He said that LGFG is currently surveying the engineering at the site, and a groundbreaking could come as soon as six months from the reopening of the sugar mill.