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With cotton acreage up, mill could add workers

GREENWOOD — It has been almost 2½ years since cottonseed was last milled at Greenwood’s Delta Oil Mill.

If the cotton crop produces as projected, however, the mill could get back to its origins and extract vegetable oil from cottonseed again this fall, says John Stewart, the mill’s manager.

That could add 40 to 50 jobs at the plant for the three to six months of processing.

“We feel this may be a little bright spot of jobs to come,” Stewart told the Greenwood Rotary Club recently.

Delta Oil Mill, down to just four employees and facing closure in 2009, presently has 24 employees.

The facility has been milling exclusively dried distillers grain, a byproduct of ethanol production, since it restarted operations last summer under new ownership.

With cotton acreage up 43 percent from last year, however, the cooperative’s executives think there may be enough supply of cottonseed to switch the Greenwood facility to processing both cottonseed and soybean seed. Presently, all the cottonseed is processed at Delta Oil Mill’s facility in Jonestown.

Cottonseed has to be delinted before the oil is extracted, which requires more labor than either soybean seed or dried distillers grain.

What the mix will be at the oil mill in the fall is still being determined, Stewart said.

Although the facility has been retrofitted to handle other source stocks, it still is partial to cottonseed.

“The plant was built to run cottonseed,” said Stewart. “That’s what it does best.”

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