Catfish feed group celebrates milestone

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Special to the Times

UNIONTOWN – In 1998, a group of area catfish growers began discussing a new venture – building the first dedicated farmer-owned catfish feed mill in the state. By the spring of 1999, Alabama Catfish Feed Mill LLC was in business, making feed for west Alabama and east Mississippi producers.

By May 2001, the feed mill had expanded to three production lines. While the 13 original stockholders had committed 20,000 tons in feed purchases, the mill’s output far exceeded that amount.

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In 2003, tonnage topped 116,000 tons, making Alabama Catfish Feed Mill the third-largest in the catfish industry. The number of stockholders has grown to 30 and total investment in the mill has reached $12 million.

In late April, as the company was approaching its fifth anniversary, a birthday party was planned. Alabama Catfish Feed Mill employees, customers, suppliers and other supporters gathered to mark the occasion at the Demopolis Civic Center. They sat down to enjoy a catfish dinner and entertainment by Alabama Catfish Queen Elizabeth Acker and feed mill member Theresa Ballard.

Alabama Catfish Feed Mill President David Pearce, with the help of General Manager Jim Whidby, presented a program covering the plant’s five years.

“I’m just absolutely overwhelmed by the turnout,” Pearce said of the more than 300 industry members at the celebration.

“We’re very pleased with it,” he said.

Rounding out the company’s management committee is George Smelley, vice-president, Dean “Butch” Wilson, secretary, and board members Rencher “Bubba” Hall, Paul Bryant Jr., Wes Williamson and Jimmy Acker.

The mill employs 18 people and produces primarily 32 percent protein catfish feed. It is a member of the Catfish Institute.

In his remarks, Pearce noted that the company has come a long way in five short years and he believes the feed mill and its base of support will continue to grow.

“We’re excited about where we’ve come in five years and where we’re going,” he said.

The company, which has room for a fourth production line, recently purchased additional equipment for future growth.