State’s ag/forestry is $9.7 billion renewable economic project

Published 5:00 pm Wednesday, January 4, 2023

By Sid Salter

Just three months back, Mississippians celebrated Gov. Tate Reeves’ announcement of a $2.5 billion aluminum mill project in the Golden Triangle that promised 1,000 jobs at an average salary of $93,000.

Operating for a time under the code name “Project Triple Crown” and kept remarkably quiet while in the negotiation stages, Reeves called a special session of the Mississippi Legislature to approve funding incentives and a bond package to expand the Mississippi operations of Steel Dynamics Inc. to construct and operate a 650,000-ton, low-carbon recycled flat-rolled aluminum mill.

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The Golden Triangle Development LINK, the Mississippi Development Authority, and other entities shared in the arduous work and ultimate success of bringing the project to fruition – and such economic development success should rightly be celebrated in Mississippi – in the same manner as Mississippians celebrated landing the Nissan and Toyota auto plants and other such projects.

At the same time, however, it’s easy to overlook an existing and renewable sector of Mississippi’s economy that is growing and expanding. Despite crop price fluctuations, higher fuel prices and other costs of production, weather pressures, global geopolitical influences and other usual market forces, the state’s agricultural production value grew in 2022.

MSU Extension agricultural economist Josh Maples said that generally “farmers are generating more revenue this year, but they are also incurring higher expenses.”

The Mississippi State University Extension Service reports that in 2022, the state’s agriculture value reached $9.7 billion – with poultry production accounting for $3.8 billion, soybeans accounting for $1.8 billion and forestry posting $1,3 billion.

Rounding out the top five Mississippi crops in terms of agricultural value produced were corn at $631 million and cotton at $624 million. The sixth highest ag production in overall value was livestock at $456 million, followed by catfish production at $258 million.

Coming in at No. 8 was hay production at $164 million followed by sweet potatoes at $112 million.

Specialty crops – fruit, nuts, vegetables, etc. – were 10th overall in Mississippi agriculture production at $111 million.

Rice ($97 million), wheat ($36 million) and peanuts ($13 million) rounded out major crop value data for Mississippi farmers.

While market influences, weather, and other forces are inherent in farming, Mississippi farmers have faced new challenges that were virtually impossible to foresee and even more difficult to overcome over the last year.

So, celebrate the $2.5 billion aluminum mill and the massive payroll it will bring to Mississippi. But remember to value the tens of thousands of jobs created in the state’s agribusiness sector that grow and strengthen in spite of barriers of politics or weather.

Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at