March 4, 2004

Local Farmer Heading Group Working To Bring Corn Processing Plant To Region

Arbela farmer Brent Rockhold is president of Missouri Masa, Inc. a new generation cooperative that is working toward the goal of building a processing plant to turn locally grown corn into flour for tortillas and other ethnic foods.

The farmer-leaders of Missouri Masa, Inc. received notification recently that their application was accepted by the Missouri Secretary of State’s office. An informal steering committee of area farmers has been working for nearly two years on developing a value-added corn processing opportunity for northeast Missouri farmers.

“We are very pleased to have reached this milestone, and able to share some limited details about our work,” stated Brent Rockhold, Arbela farmer and president of Missouri Masa. “The goal of our new generation cooperative is to add value to local corn production by processing white and yellow corn into masa.”

Masa is the Spanish word for dough, and also refers to the corn flour used to produce tortillas, tamales and other traditional Mexican foods. Missouri Masa hopes to capitalize on the rapidly growing ethnic food market in the United States.

“Missouri Masa is fortunate to have received several grants to help fund our initial feasibility study and continued market development work,” Rockhold said. “We certainly appreciate the support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture - Rural Development, and the Missouri Agriculture and Small Business Development Authority.”

In July 2003 the group received a $68,750 grant to help finalize a market study and develop a facility cost analysis and business plan for the corn processing plant. The grant was made by the Missouri Agricultural and Small Business Development Authority. The local group was among 18 ag-related projects to receive funding that is targeted at producers with the goal of fostering new enterprises that will aid rural economic development.

Rockhold noted that Missouri Masa farmer-leaders are also grateful to numerous elected officials for their support of the grant applications. He praised the efforts of U.S. Senators Kit Bond and Jim Talent, Congressman Kenny Hulshof, State Senator John Cauthorn, State Representatives Brian Munzlinger and Rachel Bringer, and the commissioners from Clark, Knox and Scotland counties for their work on the group’s behalf.

The group also expressed its appreciation for the support of many other organizations including the Missouri Corn Growers Association, Missouri Department of Agriculture - International Marketing Program, Missouri Department of Economic Development, Northeast Missouri Resource Conservation & Development and Northeast Missouri Regional Planning Commission, the latter both of Memphis.

Missouri Masa, Inc. is continuing its market development work with the assistance of several consultants.

“We feel it’s critical to find an established market before we move forward to build a facility in northeast Missouri,” explained Rockhold. “While much work has been completed, there is much yet to do. Finalizing our market is the key, and that precedes all other considerations like site selection and determining a financing plan. The leaders of Missouri Masa ask for patience as we complete the necessary due diligence, and before we make additional details available to farmers and the general public.”

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