07/10 - Louisiana Grown: Agriculture Across the State

What are the challenges & successes of the state's agricultural industry?

Louisiana’s multibillion dollar agricultural industry is facing economic challenges From sugarcane and shrimp to lumber, cattle, catfish and corn, agriculture is big business in Louisiana. Contributing billions of dollars to the state’s economy, Louisiana agriculture also provides jobs for thousands of farmers, fishers, foresters, and ranchers. But this often overlooked asset is facing economic hits and a diminishing number of producers. Louisiana Public Square goes on the road to the Coughlin-Saunders Performing Arts Center in Alexandria to explore the challenges and successes of the state’s agricultural industry. Watch “Louisiana Grown: Agriculture Across the State” Wednesday, July 28th at 7 p.m. on LPB and online.


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Backgrounder

Take a drive across Louisiana and you will see towering pine forests, acres of fertile farmland, marshland and fields of grazing cattle. What many may view as just a part of our landscape is actually, dollar-wise, the state’s largest economic engine.

From sugarcane and shrimp to lumber, cattle, chicken and corn, agriculture is big business in Louisiana. Contributing billions of dollars to the state’s economy, Louisiana agriculture also provides jobs for thousands of farmers, fishers, foresters, and ranchers. Nearly 10% of the state’s workforce is employed directly or indirectly by agriculture.

But this often overlooked asset is facing economic hits. And while demand for food will continue to grow worldwide, Louisiana like the rest of the nation faces a diminishing number of full-time producers. So what challenges do the state’s food and fiber industries face? And what does the future hold for all things “Louisiana Grown”?

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Our Panelists:

External Links

Special funding for the July edition provided by:


Arts Council of Central Louisiana


First South Farm Credit

This program was also funded in part by the Louisiana Forestry Association

We want to know your opinion! Leave your comments in the box below.


We need to see more support for farmers making the transition to organic production.  Crop diversification on existing farms can help to buffer farmers from crop failures and pest burdens.  In the event of low prices for any one commodity “cash” crop, a diversity will limit the losses.

I’d like to see more discussion outside of the box, a la organic and permaculture which changes the paradigm away from synthetic and fossil fuel inputs and back to animal husbandry and natural and recirculated inputs.

Organic and “beyond organic” farmers receive even less support from the government than the average farmer.  Many manage to find a market for their products by direct sales to the public at Farmers’ Markets, many are operated by farmers themselves.

Another problem in this sector of our economy is the use of our farmers as “resource colonies.”  Many know about our chicken farmers, who often are saddled with bad contracts that but all the burden on the farmer, but reward the “leasing” company with the majority of the rewards of production.  It is certainly good to encourage the value-added sector of our food economy for additional jobs, but we do need to see a higher value placed on direct agricultural products.  Farmers Markets, farm to school, farm to hospitals, farm to restaurants and other non-profit cooperatives established in the interest of the farmers can increase the value return to the farmer and reduce the takings of the middlemen and traders who are equivalent to speculative bankers in that regard.

Thanks for the program. Several great comments from your guests.  I have many friends in their 20’s who are involved and are getting involved in food production in this state, and truly believe this is taking us back to the future.
Louisiana needs more of this dicussion and activity in our state, and our universities need more, not less, agricultural departments, and less ownwership of the research by the agribusiness companies.

Posted by Jason Faulk  on  07/28  at  06:45 PM

Also, to add to my earlier comment, one issue that may need to be reviewed at the policy level is the possibility for land ownership reform/divestment.

Young farmers looking to get back onto the land will need assistance from the state and or federal government, as they no longer have the inheritance of their forebears to rely upon to begin farming without incurring debt to begin the process of having access to land.

Farmers have been pushed off the land by federal policy which has encouraged over production and captivity of farmers to one or few commodity buyers who set the price at market in Chicago or in places elsewhere.  We have seen recently how Goldman Sachs has manipulated that market for the gain of their shareholders.

Now, we need to level that playing field for sure, and simultaneously to re-establishing a FAIR marketplace, we must enable access to and ownership of the land by small operators, they are our civic lifeblood in rural communities.  Perhaps grants are the solution.  We already have examples of marginal lands being repurchased by conservation non-profits and public agencies and political entities.  Directing similar resources could repopulate our rural lands.

This is a matter of grand, overarching public policy and we must treat it as such.

Posted by Jason Faulk  on  07/28  at  06:59 PM

Thank you for the diversity of the discussion about the agriculture industry here in Louisiana.

As a horse producer, I was disappointed in the gentlemen from the La Racing Quarter Horse’s Association talking about how many horse are bred here in Louisiana and not discuss what happens to the horses that do not reach racing status. Many are not aware of the plight of these horses due to changes in Federal law. He boasted how much money is generated, yet does any of that money go to help the horses that do not perform on the highest levels of the racing industry? I may be wrong, but I do not think so.

I agree with Mr. Faulk’s comments about diversity and niche markets, and direct marketing from the farm to the consumer, he has hit the nail on the head for some agriculture production, but we still need the large family farms to feed this nation and other nations.

As someone who is close to the dairy industry it is very frustrating and heart-breaking to watch these hard working individuals try to make a living on the money paid to them for their product. 

I applaud the Dept. of Agriculture and LSU Agcenter and La. Farm Bureau for developing the Ag Mentoring program for young people in high school to encourage them to stay in Agriculture, but unless government policies are changed it will be cost prohibitive for them to enter agriculture. 

Many are not aware that the large animal producers across the nation are facing a shortage of large animal veterinarians.  Several years back the legislature created a program that would have helped this shortage and given the opportunity for individuals from across the state to compete for the opportunity to enter the Vet School, paid in full, with the stipulation that these individuals practice for a certain number of years here in Louisiana to pay off their school bills.  Unfortunately this program was never funded. 

In order for these changes to take place we must educate the children of the state on where their food and fiber comes from, for they will be one’s voting on those policies. 

Thank you LPB for producing such a great program, I enjoyed it and hope to see more.

Posted by Dawn Davis  on  07/29  at  11:23 PM
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