Content tagged “Agriculture”

Not a sweet deal

Louisiana lost more than $71 million in taxpayer money on a failed sugarcane mill in Jefferson Davis Parish that was sold for scrap late last year.

Rise of the drones

The drones are coming.

Spring fever

After the unusually long, cold winter Capital Region residents endured this year, it's no wonder that the first signs of spring have kick-started a flurry of sales at home garden retailers.

Harvest boon

Good local weather, strong prices for key crops, and the ongoing economic recovery helped Louisiana agriculture achieve its biggest economic output ever last year, according to the LSU AgCenter.

La. agriculture economy breaks records in 2013 with $11.8 billion valuation

Largely due to good weather and no major problems with disease or pests, record high yields for corn, cotton, grain sorghum, soybeans, rice and sweet potatoes contributed to yet another record-breaking year for Louisiana's agriculture economy—which reached a total value of $11.8 billion in 2013. "It was a year of records that broke records that were established in 2012," said LSU AgCenter Economist John Westra, who addressed the Baton Rouge Press Club today. The agriculture economy—second only to the petrochemical industry in value to the state—is up 3.8% from 2012, when the agriculture sector was valued at $11.4 billion, which was also a record at that time. According to the LSU AgSummary website, the total economic contribution combines farm-gate values with value-added activities. Five commodities in particular were responsible for a lion's share of the gains, Westra said: rice, which increased in value by nearly 37% to $659 million; cattle and calves, which...

La. looks for its next generation of farmers

About 70% of U.S. farmland is expected to change hands within the next two decades, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates. America's farmers are aging, and with about 52% of the country's land made up of small farms and ranches, it will be up to new generations of farmers to keep the industry growing. But Ricky Gonsoulin, Iberia Parish president for the Louisiana Farm Bureau, tells Gannett Louisiana it's getting harder and harder to find young people in southwest Louisiana who are interested in farming. "Who could blame them?" asks Gonsoulin, 47, whose family has farmed sugarcane for generations. "Way back when you had several young people getting out of college or trade school and getting into this business to make a living. Now the price and production costs are rising, the commodity prices are falling. It's a challenge. Your back's against the wall." Longtime rice farmer and Evangeline Parish Farm Bureau president Richard Fontenot, 44, says the cost to start a...

Freeze effects on La. agriculture expected to be minimal

A winter storm that blanketed most of Louisiana in snow and ice this week may have shut down governments, schools, businesses and roads, but it didn't cause much damage to the state's agriculture. So says Kurt Guidry, an LSU AgCenter economist, who has conducted a survey of major commodities. "Fortunately, it looks like from a statewide perspective, the effects will be fairly minimal. However, like with any adverse weather situation, there are individual producers and commodities that are impacted," Guidry says in a press release issued by the AgCenter today. Strawberry farmers appear to be seeing the most injury to their crop. "The season will be delayed," says Ponchatoula farmer Eric Morrow. "We'll have a lot of berries for our traditional March and April season." Guidry says crawfish farmers are reporting that the catch will be delayed, but the freeze did not result in any mortality. He also says a few newborn calves were killed by the freezes, but numbers were not excessive, and...

Cold winter hard on crawfish supply

People planning Super Bowl crawfish boils this weekend may be out of luck. Crawfish farmers from across Louisiana say the cold has kept crawfish scarce all winter, and now many ponds are iced over. The prolonged cold also means crawfish aren't eating and are likely to be smaller than normal at the peak of crawfish season, says farmer David Savoy of Church Point. People may even have to order ahead at the peak of the season, says Craig Lutz, an LSU AgCenter professor and aquaculture specialist. "I think it's fair to say that when we get to Mardi Gras and we get to Easter, we're definitely going to be behind what we would be in a normal season. There'll still be crawfish available. But I think people are going to have to plan a lot better to make sure they have crawfish on those weekends when they want them," he says. AgCenter aquaculture and crawfish specialist Mark Shirley is optimistic about the spring and summer harvest but says the supply is going to be short for the Super Bowl, a...

LSU AgCenter researchers say use of drones in crop monitoring looks 'promising'

The LSU AgCenter says its researchers are trying to determine if using unmanned aerial vehicles, sometimes known as drones, can help farmers monitor their crops for potential problems. "We are investigating the use of UAVs to see what the capabilities are," says Randy Price, LSU AgCenter engineer. "From what we can tell, the technology appears to be promising." Price says a drone was used recently to check on freeze damage in a sugarcane field by taking photographs that could be viewed once the vehicle returned to the ground. One of the first projects AgCenter researchers are undertaking involves sending up a UAV equipped with a sensor to measure the vegetative index of a crop. The device measures the green growth of a plant, giving a possible indication if additional fertilizer is needed on specific areas of a field. Price says Charles Malveaux, an LSU AgCenter research associate, has built three UAVs capable of flying themselves on a programmed mission. "We're in the process of...

Sugarcane may propel next Bayou State boom

When Louisiana Spirits Distillery held its grand opening in Lacassine last week, bartenders poured Bayou Breeze cocktails out of big glass jugs that were decorated with sculpted silver alligators. But, as The Advertiser reports, rum wasn't the only reason spirits were high. Many in the crowd, including Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, viewed the new $5 million project as a sign that the Interstate 10 corridor between Lake Charles and Lafayette was ready to boom—not only with oil and petrochemical products, but also with sugar. Dardenne reminded the crowd that Etienne de Bore, New Orleans' first mayor, was the man who discovered how to crystallize sugar in 1795. The distillery will make its Bayou Rum with sugar it buys from M.A. Patout & Son in Iberia Parish. And sugar, as well as oil, will propel job and construction growth in this new economic boom scenario. "I just got back from New York where I was visiting the rating agencies—Moody's, Goldman Sachs, Standard &...