MONTGOMERY — Three Alabama entities – a county water authority, a peanut shelling facility and a vaccine vial manufacturer — will be receiving a combined total of $65.7 million in federal support, according to an announcement by the USDA Rural Development Alabama State Office on Wednesday.
The largest piece of funding announced Wednesday – a $40 million Business & Industry Guarantee – will help build a peanut shelling facility in Atmore from the cooperative Coastal Growers LLC.
Also receiving funds is SiO2 Materials in Auburn, which makes vials for coronavirus vaccine doses. It will receive a $22.9 million loan guarantee. The West Dallas County Water Authority will be receiving $2.8 million in loans and grants to help expand and upgrade its water system.
USDA Rural Development State Director Chris Beeker conducted the announcement at the office’s location in Montgomery. He was joined by representatives from Coastal Growers and SiO2 Materials.
“Today is a good day at USDA,” Beeker opened the announcement.
The peanut shelling facility receiving the USDA funding was first announced in the fall of 2020. Coastal Growers LLC, the cooperative of 100 farmers in the South Alabama area backing the venture, estimated at the time that the plant would cost $87 million.
Brad Smith of Coastal Growers spoke at the announcement on Wednesday.
“With the USDA support, we were able to cut the actual equity needed [to be invested] by the growers in half,” he said, further explaining that the lowered cost of investment on the farmers’ behalf made the project possible when it would not have been otherwise.
Beeker noted the facility will allow peanut farmers in the region to have a market for their product, providing them an avenue to export their products around the country and world.
Auburn-based SiO2 had already been the subject of much media attention before the USDA funding was announced Wednesday. Beeker said the $22.9 million the company is getting from the USDA Rural Development is to help offset the costs of the businesses’ COVID-19 expenditures and meet the heightened demand for their product.
A smaller project, the grants and loans to the West Dallas Water Authority will provide for new water service at 69 additional households and one church in the west Dallas County area.
Beeker noted that many of the residents who will soon have access to service from the water authority are currently reliant on independently created wells, which are not thought to be reliable sources of clean water.
Beeker remarked, “It is these three projects and many more like them which underline the importance of rural America to the entire country.”