A failed cypress mill in Tangipahoa Parish is at the heart of a legal battle that could determine whether the state is on the hook for millions of dollars in debt incurred by private industry.

At issue is whether former state Agriculture Commissioner Bob Odom should have sought other state officials' approval in giving the state's backing on more than $14 million in debt for the cypress mill and for a now struggling cane syrup mill in Lacassine.

Louisiana State Cypress failed not long after Wal-Mart decided to stop buying Louisiana cypress mulch.

The company stopped making loan payments to Texans Credit Union. The credit union is suing the company as well as the state demanding payment of the remaining balance on a $3.2 million loan.

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