From Mississippi Development Guide 2023

Fertile Fields

"A diverse agricultural sector leads the way
for Mississippi."

Source: Mississippi Dept. of Agriculture & Commerce

griculture is Mississippi’s No.1 industry. In 2023, the state’s agribusiness industry represented a hefty $8.76 billion in value. More than 34,000 farms spanning some 10.4 million acres dot the length and breadth of the Magnolia State, making significant contributions to each of Mississippi’s 82 counties. About 17% of the state’s workforce is employed directly or indirectly in Mississippi’s vast agriculture sector, according to the Mississippi Department of Agriculture & Commerce. 

Mississippi’s diverse soils, abundant rainfall and moderate climate allow producers to raise a wide variety of crops and livestock. Poultry, soybeans and forestry products lead the way, yielding combined sales of $6.56 billion last year. Corn, cattle, cotton, catfish, hay, rice and specialty crops rounded out the state’s top 10 agricultural commodities.

Early 2024 brought a major announcement in the increasingly crucial supply chain segment of the agricultural sector. Due in large part to changing consumer habits spawned during the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for large-scale cold storage facilities is surging. CORE X Gulfport, a subsidiary of CORE X Partners, is responding to the demand by establishing operations at the Port of Gulfport. The company plans a $73 million,150,000-sq.-ft. cold storage facility that will increase the year-round availability of perishable goods to local and regional markets while enabling Mississippi’s producers to extend the reach of their products.

Bill Cork, executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA), framed the decision by CORE X as a tribute to several of Mississippi’s core assets. MDA is providing support for the project through the Mississippi Flexible Tax Incentive (MFLEX). Through MFLEX, businesses can offset their state tax liabilities by committing to a minimum investment of $2.5 million and the creation of more than 10 jobs.

“CORE X’s decision to invest $73 million to establish cold storage operations at the Port of Gulfport speaks to the many advantages of doing business in Mississippi, one being our ideal location in the Southeast with direct access to the Gulf of Mexico,” Cork said in a statement. “The deepwater port enables the quick delivery of goods to international markets, and CORE X Gulfport is the latest to join a growing list of companies seeking to optimize operations and stay ahead of shifts in the global supply chain.”

Catfish King

Mississippi is America’s long-running leader in the production and processing of catfish, a high-protein, traditional Southern delicacy whose popularity has spread nationwide. According to the Catfish Institute, Mississippi produces close to 60% of the country’s farm-raised catfish with sales valued at $252 million in 2023. With 36,300 acres of active aquaculture ponds — mostly in the Delta and Black Belt regions — aquaculture farms, processing facilities, feed mills and equipment companies employ up to 10,000 Mississippians.

MIssissippi-Ag-2024-CatfishPhoto: Getty Images

Based in Stoneville, just east of the Mississippi River, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Thad Cochran National Warmwater Aquaculture Center (NWAC) assists the catfish farming industry through basic and applied research, extension and diagnostic services. The multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional facility collaborates with Mississippi State University (MSU), where research into crossbreeding of channel catfish and blue catfish served to produce a hybrid fish with faster growth and increased meat yields. Gross pounds of catfish per acre have increased by 70% over the past decade.

The Lyman Aquaculture Hatchery just north of Gulfport, operated by the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, focuses on aquaculture restoration and commercial aquaculture opportunities. The hatchery helps create marketable products by developing techniques that can be transferred to the private sector for commercial aquaculture. 

You’re unlikely to find catfish joints rivaling those that grace Mississippi. The most celebrated include Jerry’s Catfish House in Florence, Aunt Jenny’s Catfish Restaurant in Ocean Springs, Moss Creek Fish House in Pearl and Cuevas Fish House in Picayune.

Timber Drives Major Investments

In a report released in December, the MSU Extension Service projected that Mississippi’s vibrant timber industry would set an annual record for the unfolding 21st century. The increased harvest helped Mississippi’s forestry industry remain in third place among the state’s agricultural commodities with an estimated production value of close to $1.5 billion, a 9.6% increase from 2022.

Mississippi-Ag-TimberPhoto: Getty Images

“We are on pace to exceed 36 million tons of timber harvested, which would be the highest level we have experienced this century, surpassing the previous high set in 2005 prior to the Great Recession,” said MSU Associate Professor of Forest Business Eric McConnell in a statement.   

With 19.3 million acres of forestland covering 63% of the state, Mississippi is ranked third in timber producing acres among states in the Southeast. Mississippi timber mills produce finished goods that range from utility poles, plywood and dimensional lumber to trusses and beams, pallets and newsprint. The state is home to some of the world’s largest biomass pellet companies, including Enviva Biomass and Drax Global. New sawmill openings, according to MSU, have added 1.3 billion board feet of pine lumber capacity, with additional investments projected to raise pine production by another 2.5 billion board feet per year.

Two major projects announced in 2023 represent investments totaling $618 million with the expected creation of 423 jobs. In May 2023, Hood Industries announced plans to build a state-of-the art laminated plywood panel manufacturing facility in Beaumont, southeast of Jackson. The new manufacturing facility will operate at twice the capacity of a previous Hood facility made inoperable by a tornado in 2022. 

“The mill has been one of the cornerstones of our company because of the support received from the community of Beaumont, Perry County and surrounding areas and the hard work of our excellent employees,” said Warren Hood, owner and CEO. “We are excited to be able to rebuild the facility into one of the most modern plywood plants in North America.”

In June, Huber Engineered Woods, a specialty building products manufacturer, said it would locate a strand board manufacturing plant in Shuqualak in Noxubee County. The $418 million investment is to create 158 jobs. Noxubee County and the Mississippi Development Authority committed to assisting with infrastructure work necessary for the buildout including sewer, water and road work. The Tennessee Valley Authority is to assist in connecting the plant to a power grid.

“Mississippi’s rich natural resources in agriculture, forestry and wood products have always been a catalyst for economic growth,” said former MDA Deputy Executive Director Laura Hipp in a statement. “We are thrilled to see Huber Engineered Woods invest in our state, bringing new job opportunities and boosting our economy. MDA is proud to support this venture and looks forward to its success.” 

Gary Daughters
Senior Editor

Gary Daughters

Gary Daughters is a Peabody Award winning journalist who began with Site Selection in 2016. Gary has worked as a writer and producer for CNN covering US politics and international affairs. His work has included lengthy stints in Washington, DC and western Europe. Gary is a 1981 graduate of the University of Georgia, where he majored in Journalism and Mass Communications. He lives in Atlanta with his teenage daughter, and in his spare time plays guitar, teaches golf and mentors young people.


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