Agriculture: Backbone of Louisiana’s Economy
This publication tabulates the value of Louisiana agriculture in 2012. Agents and specialists in the LSU AgCenter, as well as other representatives of other private and public agencies, compiled the data. Their analysis focused on the animal, forestry, fisheries, plant and wildlife commodities that make up our vital agricultural industries.
Agricultural and natural resource industries contribute significantly to our state’s economy – an estimated $11.4 billion in 2012 – and they have the potential for increased economic benefits and job creation through value-added processing in urban and rural communities across Louisiana.
As the year began, a warm and relatively wet winter posed the threat of increased weed, disease and insect problems for crops in 2012. Then a relatively wet spring delayed planting of some crops and threatened to shift crop enterprise mixes. But weather conditions improved as the season progressed – meaning that although some commodities and some areas of the state experienced pest problems, widespread effects never materialized. As a result, while many areas of the country experienced severe drought conditions during the growing season, Louisiana agricultural industries overall experienced positive weather conditions with timely rainfall.
Those positive conditions prevailed for most of the growing season, although the optimistic view of 2012 was somewhat shaken when Hurricane Isaac hit near the end of August. With many of the major row crop commodities close to harvest at that time, rains and winds from a major storm could have created widespread damage to the state’s agricultural sector. Thankfully, although the storm affected much of the state in some way, its damage was less than anticipated, and the major part of the damage was limited to the southeastern portion of the state. In addition, dry and cool conditions that followed the storm allowed distressed crops to recover and provided for excellent harvest efficiency, which also limited damage.
While Hurricane Isaac caused damage for some commodities and certain portions of the state, the 2012 production year, as a whole, was characterized by record or near record yields from many commodities. Although commodities like citrus, pecans and some vegetables were negatively affected by the storm, favorable weather conditions throughout much of the growing and harvest seasons resulted in record yields for most of the state’s row crop commodities. Record yields were set for corn, soybeans, grain sorghum and rice, and even though Hurricane Isaac likely limited some production for cotton and sugarcane, those crops also had near record yields.
Despite some of the concerns producers typically face each year, the 2012 production year must be viewed as positive. This is particularly true about commodity prices. With much of the United States facing severe drought conditions, commodity prices for feed grains and oilseeds approached record levels. The higher feed grain prices helped push prices significantly higher for most livestock commodities. Even for commodities like cotton and rice, which did not experience the same type of price appreciation, 2012 prices remained marginally higher than the previous year. The only major row crop commodity that didn’t have better prices in 2012 was sugar. Even in that instance, however, extremely strong yields and sugar recovery helped to minimize the effects of lower prices.
Despite some of the difficulty associated with Hurricane Isaac, record or near record yields and historically strong prices for many of the state’s agricultural commodities resulted in total gross farm-gate value for the agricultural industries being $6.6 billion in 2012, an increase of 10 percent from the previous year. Plant enterprises experienced increases in gross farm-gate values, moving from $3.8 billion in 2011 to $4.1 billion in 2012, a 7 percent increase, due primarily to strong returns for feed grains and soybeans in 2012.
The gross farm-gate values of both the animal enterprises and fisheries and wildlife enterprises experienced significant increases in value in 2012, with each experiencing 13-15 percent change from 2011 values. Animal enterprises generated an estimated $1.9 billion in gross farm-gate value in 2012. Leading the way were the beef cattle and poultry industries, with each experiencing more than 20 percent increases from the previous year. Improvements in those two industries were more than enough to offset the reductions seen in the dairy, horses and some of the more minor animal enterprises.
Leading the way for the $643 million in gross farm-gate value generated for the fisheries and wildlife enterprises were the marine fisheries, fur animals and wild caught alligator industries. Increased marine fisheries landings in 2011, the year reported, accompanied by higher prices, reflect the continued recovery of Gulf fisheries from devastation of the oil spill suffered in 2010. The improvements seen in those industries more than offset reductions experienced in some of the aquaculture and freshwater fisheries sectors.
With the increased production experienced in many of the agricultural sectors in 2012, value-added activities associated with agricultural production also increased in 2012. When commodities were cleaned, processed and packaged, the value added was estimated to be $4.7 billion. Taken together with total farm-gate values of $6.7 billion, those value-added activities helped to generate a combined $11.4 billion in economic contributions to the state of Louisiana in 2012. That represents a 7 percent increase over 2011 and shows agricultural industries continue to be significant contributors to the state’s economy, even in years when drought and other adverse conditions create hardships for agricultural producers.
Many Louisiana communities depend on agriculture, forestry, fisheries and wildlife for local jobs and their economic well-being. The heart of agronomic agriculture is found in northeastern, southwestern and south central Louisiana. Forestry production occurs mostly in the state’s hill parishes, and fisheries production takes place mostly along the coast, although aquaculture production of catfish is located mainly in the northeast Louisiana delta area.
For those who work in them day in and day out, agriculture, forestry and fisheries are far more than a business, a major job contributor and an economic engine. These pursuits truly are a way of life. Families have lived on many of these farms, forest lands or fishing villages for generations, following a preferred way of life even though it means hard work, many hours, high risks and sometimes low incomes.
Each new production season has risks associated with commodity prices, trade agreements and higher input costs, as well as uncertainty related to the weather. These conditions make the discovery and adoption of new agricultural technology developed by the LSU AgCenter more important than ever to our state’s producers. Cutting-edge research and innovative extension education/outreach are critical to sustaining the significant economic benefits agriculture and natural resources possess for our state.
Agriculture is a highly sophisticated segment of the national and world economy; becoming increasingly more so every year. That is the reason we at the LSU AgCenter continue to support agriculture and consumers with factual information provided by a well-trained faculty of extension agents, specialists and research scientists. Those of us in the LSU AgCenter are proud to be part of Louisiana’s agricultural industry, and we are committed to serving that industry and the citizens across Louisiana in all the years ahead.
William B. Richardson, Chancellor