Mississippi The Poultry Industry
As the state’s most important employer of Latinos during the 1990s, the poultry industry provides a useful window into the critical issues affecting Latinos in the state. Scott County in central Mississippi exemplifies this trend. Despite their failure to retain Latino workers recruited from Texas during the late 1970s, B.C. Rogers Poultry executives in the 1990s once again turned their attention to Latinos. In 1993 the company began Hispanic Project. That year, company officials regularly traveled to Miami to recruit Cuban and Central American workers; in 1994, they opened an office there. At its height, the Hispanic Project bused in approximately 80 workers per week from Miami and later from south Texas. Of these workers, company officials estimate that 20 to 40 percent remained in Mississippi.
By the mid-1990s B.C. Rogers poultry executives estimated that 400 of the plant’s 600 workers were Latino. The practice of recruiting Latinos to work in the chicken plants spread through the local industry, and by the late 1990s many of the area’s poultry processors were recruiting workers from Miami, south Texas, and even Mexico and Peru. The census recorded 141 Hispanics in Scott County in 1990, and in 2000 there were 1,660.