Public officlas attended the official awarding of funds for the expansion of Delta Yams.
The sweet smell of success for Arkansas Delta Yams got better Monday with the official announcement of a $1 million federal/state grant by U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln and State Rep. Clark Hall at the processing plant west of Barton.
Helena native Lincoln keyed on the partnership that led to the opening of the facility last August after five years in the planning and construction.
“”We gave them the tools to process the sweet potatoes – the recipe for success,” Lincoln said. “It doesn’t have to stop here.”
Lincoln and Patty Sheetz, director of the federal Economic Development Department, were driving forces behind the $700,000 allocation from Congress. The Arkansas Department of Economic Development contributed $300,000. The new monies will provide 100,000 bushels in additional storage capacity.
Arkansas Delta Yams, a creation of the Central Arkansas Resource Conservation and Development Council, processed 125,000 bushels of sweet potatoes in its first season.
Central Arkansas RC&D, a non-profit organization, received more than $2 million in grants and loans to build the facility for storage, curing, grading, packaging and shipping.
Two million of the 3.2 million pounds of sweet potatoes generated last year were sent to Bright Star, a cannery at Clarksdale.
In his absence, Bruce Leggett, the Central Arkansas RC&D director, was touted for his leadership in making Arkansas Delta Yams a reality.
“Sweet potatoes were brought to the Governor (Mike Beebe),” Hall said.
During her brisk talk, Lincoln said one of the most popular items in the lunchroom for congressmen in Washington are “sweet potato fries.” Vegetables have their place in the new Farm Bill adopted by Congress after they overrode a veto by President Bush.
Economic development, Lincoln said, does not have to be limited to “smokestack” industries.
She referred to the “human capital” that is crucial to any form of economic development. Nodding to Phillips County Judge Don Gentry, whom she said helped “raise me,” Lincoln said sweet potato production, processing and marketing will “generate more taxes” from payrolls and goods.
Floyd Morrow, a farmer from the Turner community and one of the five who raised sweet potatoes last season for the operation, said the facility “gives us a new lease on farm life.”
Morrow said later that he continues to raise cotton, soybeans and rice and has added purple hull peas this season. Morrow said the additional storage capacity would enable the operation to at least “double the five farmers that we now have.”