The owner of two Mississippi cottonseed processing facilities may close one plant because of reduced cotton acreage.
Scott Middleton, president and general manager of Delta Oil Mill, told The Clarksdale Press Register that no final decision has been made. The company has mills in Jonestown and Greenwood.
"It'll be happening fairly soon," he said. "We never like having to lay off anybody. It's always a difficult thing to do, and we hope it won't be a permanent situation, regardless of whether its Greenwood or Jonestown, but we just don't have any guarantees at this point."
Middleton said there isn't enough cottonseed available to justify running two plants.
Cottonseed oil is found in fast foods and in processed foods.
Don Respess, the agricultural extension agent for Coahoma County, said cotton yields have fallen dramatically in the past decade as other crops, such as rice, soybeans, corn and peanuts have become more popular with local growers.
Respess said his records show 140,000 acres of cotton were planted in Coahoma County in 2006, while in recent years farmers have planted only 50,000 to 60,000 acres.
And with those numbers, Middleton said he can't keep two mills in operation.
"If cotton planting in Mississippi were to triple to where it is now, and get back to levels where it's been in the not-too-distant past, where there was a lot more cotton then there's been, then that would help our prospects. But without that, unless acres really go up dramatically, it's likely we won't run both plants on cotton seed," Middleton said.
He said the company may look for some other oil seed it can run through whichever plant it won't be running cottonseed