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Strain pushes need for revamped crop insurance program

January 28, 2009

Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M., told attendees of the National Sweet Potato Council convention that current crop insurance plans are not adequate. 

"Crop insurance for sweet potatoes in Louisianais provisional," Strain said. "You can’t even get crop insurance in every parish.

"In the parishes where insurance is available, there are significant issues in the way a marketable sweet potato is determined and ruled lost or damaged that need to be resolved.”

Strain made his comments at a January 26 jambalaya luncheon for the conventioneers at the Louisiana State Museum. 

The luncheon was sponsored by the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry.

More than 300 sweet potato farmers from Louisiana, North Carolina, California, Arkansas and other states attended the 47th annual convention dedicated to the yam.

The sweet potato farmers were bussed in from the Hilton Capitol Center convention headquarters to the museum.

Strain said excessive rain and backwater floods from hurricanes Gustav and Ike covered much of Louisiana’s sweet potato acreage for more than a week at prime harvest time and caused the crop to sour in the ground.

Nearly seventy-five percent of the sweet potato crop was abandoned in the field, Strain said.

The LSU AgCenter estimated the sweet potato loss to be in excess of $48 million.

“We have to find a fair and equitable way to insure the sweet potato,” Strain said. “We also need to make it so you can buy crop insurance in all parishes at reasonable rates.”

Strain said he urged the United States Senate after hurricane Gustav and Ike to pass Senator Mary Landrieu’s emergency disaster aid bill that would have provided $1.1 billion in aid for farmers in Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Iowa, Illinois, Arkansas and other areas affected by the natural disasters of 2008.

Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma was the only Senator to object to Landrieu’s bill and blocked the vote.

“If we had adequate crop insurance we wouldn’t need all these federal disaster programs,” Strain said.

Strain said he was returning to Washington this week to continue lobbying efforts for farm disaster aid for Louisiana agriculture.

Currently, Louisiana has procured $50 million in community development block grants to help farmers replant for the 2009 growing season.

The sign up period for the CDBG program is expected to begin in early April.