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Strain: It’s A Great Day in Louisiana Agriculture and Forestry
April 1, 2011
Agriculture is the largest sector of Louisiana’s economy. Agriculture, forestry, and aquaculture cover over 85 percent of the surface area of the state and those industries provide more than 243,000 jobs, or nearly 10 percent of our work force. At more than $30 billion, agriculture and forestry combined make up one of Louisiana’s largest and most economically dependent industries.
Nationally, our state ranks second in the production of aquaculture and sugarcane, third in rice production and milling, fourth in sweet potatoes, and sixth in grain sorghum.
According to the LSU AgCenter’s 2010 Ag Summary, Louisiana agriculture and forestry contributed more than $9.9 billion directly to the state’s economy in 2010, an increase of over 20 percent from the year before. These gains were led by forestry and poultry, which contributed $3.1 billion and $1.6 billion, respectively.
The Ag Summary was compiled by LSU AgCenter economist John Westra, Ph.D.
Additionally, farm-raised crawfish was up 31 percent to $279 million. Farm-raised and wild caught crawfish benefitted from increased price and production.
Sweet potatoes increased 25 percent for a total of more than $142 million and the sector is expecting continued growth to meet increased demand from the new ConAgra sweet potato processing plant in Delhi.
King Cotton did very well, increasing in overall planted acreage by ten percent and better yields (more than 120 additional pounds per acre) and record prices.
In cane country, sugar has never been sweeter. Producers experienced good yields and very favorable prices.
According to a report compiled by Rob Yunich of the USA Rice Federation, Louisiana’s rice output grew to over $640 million and our rice milling industries added an additional $746 million toward a total output of $1.3 billion. The industry sustains more than 5,300 jobs.
In livestock, the cattle business added an additional $411 million to our economy.
Almost every sector of agriculture and forestry increased markedly in value in 2010. American farmers earned a record $100 billion and pushed up exports to $127 billion, an 18 percent increase that resulted in a positive balance of trade of more than $33 billion. Agriculture’s balance of trade was the highest of any goods sector. In Louisiana, exports increased by over 15 percent to $20 billion.
Louisiana has seen unprecedented economic activity in agricultural and forestry processing and infrastructure. Recently, more than $1 billion in new projects in the state will enhance the value-added sector of our economy. These projects include:
1. Foster Farms in Farmerville and DG Foods in Bastrop- poultry processing
2. ConAgra Foods Lamb Weston in Delhi- sweet potato processing
3. Bruce Foods in New Iberia- plant improvements
4. Myriant Technologies in Lake Providence- biobased succinic acid plant (biofuels)
5. Aquatic Energy in Lake Charles- algae plant (bioenergy)
6. Georgia-Pacific in Port Hudson- advanced paper making
7. Kennedy Rice Dryers in Mer Rouge- rice export
8. South Louisiana Rail Facility in Laccasine- grain export
9. New Orleans Cold Storage in New Orleans- poultry exports at Port of New Orleans
10. Tyson/Syntroleum in Gramercy- synthetic fuels
11. Monsanto in Luling- plant improvements
12. Louis Dreyfus in Baton Rouge- grain elevator at Port of Greater Baton Rouge
13. Zagis USA in Lacassine- cotton spinning facility
14. Louisiana Sugar Refining LLC in Gramercy- a new sugar refinery, cooperative endeavor between Cargill, Imperial Sugar Co. and Sugar Growers & Refiners Inc.
15. IFG Port Holdings in Lake Charles-grain elevator at Port of Lake Charles
For many years critics of the state have said that Louisiana produces almost every agricultural commodity but processes very little. That has changed. We are entering a new era in Louisiana, one that will bring growth and wealth to rural, suburban, and urban regions.
We will see an unprecedented increase in the need for our products. In one generation, America’s population will grow by more than 100 million. The global population is expanding at a rate of more than 75 million people per year and will grow to 9.2 billion. Energy consumption is expected to increase by a minimum of 25 percent.
We must double our food supply by 2035 and we will rely on bioenergy for these future needs as our fossil fuels are finite and limited.
Currently, our human population occupies over 35 percent of all available land on the planet and consumes 70 percent of all available fresh water. In order to meet the needs of the future it is imperative that we embrace every opportunity to increase productivity and efficiency in a sustainable fashion.
Bill Batchelor, Ph.D. and Dean of the Auburn University’s College of Agriculture, said "Agricultural technology has led to a tremendous amount of economic growth in our world. In the 1870s, 70 percent of the people lived on the farm and produced their own foods. By 1900, that number was down to 38 percent because there was enough output from those farms to support the 62 percent (of population) in cities in America. Now only 1.5 percent (of the population) works on the farm, meaning 98.5 percent do not."
At the current rate of increasing productivity and efficiency, world demand will outpace our ability to produce by one to two percent annually if we do not markedly accelerate our research and technology.
Additionally, the increasing demand/supply ratio will result in greater equity and profitability in agricultural production and processing, reflecting greater value in lands and facilities.
Overall, the future for rural Louisiana is bright. There will be more and better jobs, greater equity and a stronger promise of tomorrow. Together we must embrace the future and grow our way to a stronger economy and state, one farmer, one farm and one acre at a time.
Very Truly Yours,
Mike Strain, D.V.M.