Just before shovels sunk into the ground Friday for Monsanto’s near $1 billion plant upgrade in Luling, Plant Manager Enrique Wehlen welcomed everyone to celebrate the chemical giant’s largest single investment in its history.Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson, Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture & Forestry Mike Strain and Monsanto Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer Kerry Preete joined other state, local and company officials in the groundbreaking celebration at Monsanto’s Luling operations.
Strain hailed the project as added investment in “people and new technologies” to help double, possibly even triple, agricultural production in crops like cotton, canola and corn to feed a world where population is outpacing food supply. The U.S. exports 24 percent of its food supply, which he said further emphasizes the importance of Monsanto’s investment.
“It’s a greater investment in the lives of people we will never know, and their lives depend on what we do each and every day,” he said. “The No. 1 reason why countries, especially third world countries, struggle to provide food is controlling weeds.”
By 2019, Monsanto will begin producing 50 million pounds of dicamba a year for its Roundup Ready X-tend Crop system with plans to launch the produce in the next decade in the U.S., Brazil and other parts of Latin America.
Dicamba is an established weed killer, but it’s a new addition to Monsanto’s chemical lineup that will create 95 new permanent jobs. Some 645 people work for the company in Luling.
At peak construction, the project is expected to generate 1,000 jobs.
Kerry Preete called the celebration a milestone for Monsanto.
“This expansion represents the single largest capital investment in Monsanto’s self-manufacturing history and reinforces the confidence our company’s leadership has in our Luling team and the commitment to the local community,” Preete said.
Having broke ground for Entergy Louisiana’s St. Charles Power Station last Tuesday in Montz, St. Charles Parish President Larry Cochran also welcomed Monsanto’s investment in the parish.
“This expansion will contribute great economic growth for our parish and will result in full-time, permanent job opportunities for our local workforce,” Cochran said. “We are looking forward to building upon the relationship we have with Monsanto.”
State Rep. Greg Miller, R-Norco, said the project means a lot to everyone in Luling, the parish and region.
It’s also a statement about the parish as an attractive area for new growth, which should be shown to the world, Miller said.
“Monsanto’s investment is a result of the company being confident St. Charles Parish will continue to be that great place to do business and raise families,” he said. “It will continue to pay dividends to everyone.”
Monsanto announced plans to pursue the project in June 2015. By April of last year, the company’s board of directors signed off on the investment, which follows its $200 million expansion completed in 2010.