Catfish industry boasts 3,000 jobs in Alabama

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
13 March 2006, at 12:00am

ALABAMA - Standing on his back patio in his Greensboro neighborhood, Southern Pride Catfish Co. Senior Vice President Randy Rhodes could see the lights of at least nine houses inhabited by someone involved directly or indirectly with the catfish business: The owner of a local Shell station, a member of a Southern Pride harvesting crew, an Alfa insurance agent and an Alabama Power employee, just to name a few. "We are one of the reasons that Greensboro has sustained itself and had some growth," Rhodes said. "We contribute to the grocery store, banks, hardware stores. Without our employees contributing to local economy, I don't know where it would be." Once just a collection of a few ponds, the catfish industry now contributes between $400 million and $500 million to Alabama. Most of that impact is in the Black Belt, which contains some of Alabama's poorest counties. Since catfish came to town in the 1960s, experts say, the business has helped to keep farmers on the farm and sustain the Black Belt's agricultural economy. Without it, much of the rural landscape would lie fallow, and many of the towns in the region, which have difficulty attracting industry, would be drying up. "Catfish farming has taken the fiscal peaks and valleys out of many farming operations by providing an additional, sometimes offseason crop, creating additional cash flow on the farm," said Jimmy Carlisle, former director of the Alabama Catfish Producers, a division of the Alabama Farmers Federation. "It has allowed the family farms to survive and prosper and is allowing those farms to be passed on to the next generation." Alabama Catfish Producers Director Mitt Walker said the catfish business is responsible for more than 3,000 jobs in Alabama. Ranked second to Mississippi in annual catfish sales, Farmers in Alabama sold more than $97 million worth of catfish in 2005, according to the National Agriculture Statistics Service. Alabama's three major catfish processors - Southern Pride in Greensboro, Harvest Select in Uniontown and SouthFresh in Eutaw - sell about $170 million worth of catfish to all 50 states and Canada and Europe. Annual sales to farmers by allied industries are approximately $80 million for feed, utilities, equipment and services. Source: The Ledger