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Agriculture Is Backbone of Louisiana’s Economy

This publication tabulates the value of Louisiana agriculture in 2013. Agents and specialists of the LSU AgCenter’s Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service, as well as other public and private agencies, compiled the data. Their analysis focused on the animal, forestry, fisheries, plant and wildlife commodities that make up our vital agricultural and natural resource industries.

Agricultural and natural resource industries contribute significantly to our state’s economy and have the potential for even more increased economic benefits and job creation through value-added processing in urban and rural communities across Louisiana. The estimated total for 2013 exceeds $11.8 billion, and $4.9 of that was from such value-added industries.

Since the mid-2000s, the agricultural industry has experienced a shift in production as market signals induced movement away from commodities such as cotton and rice to feed grains and soybeans. The 2013 production year did little to change those trends as Louisiana experienced increases in corn and soybean acres and saw cotton acres fall to historical lows. Acreage shifts likely¬ would have been even more dramatic in 2013 had it not been for some less-than-ideal weather conditions during portions of the planting season.

Coming off the 2012 production year in which record yields were set for several commodities, there was much anticipation for the 2013 production year. For the most part, the 2013 production year followed a pattern very similar to that of 2012. While warmer winter temperatures brought concerns of the potential for increased pest pressure, adequate winter rainfall resulted in generally favorable moisture to start the 2013 growing season. Favorable weather conditions persisted through the early part of the planting season, allowing the planting of many of the early planted commodities to progress at or better than historical rates.

On the other hand, unusually cool temperatures in April and the first part of May 2013, along increased rainfall, helped to slow planting and crop development. The cooler- and wetter-than-normal conditions in Louisiana also were prevalent throughout much of the United States and created significant uncertainty about production potential for most of the major row crops. Fortunately, improved conditions returned both in Louisiana and much of the country. While temperatures warmed, they remained below normal levels for much of the summer. That, along with opportune rainfall for the remaining growing season, allowed most of the row crops to continue to develop and mature under nearly ideal conditions. The results were record yields for many of the state’s row crops. State yield records were set for cotton, rice, corn, grain sorghum, soybeans and sweet potatoes. In addition, adequate moisture and cooler summertime temperatures also benefited the livestock sector, putting less stress on livestock and helping to create favorable growing conditions for forages and hay.

While the 2013 production year proved to be one of the best on record, the same cannot be said for the market situation for many of these commodities. After experiencing several years of historically high prices, record production in 2013 for the feed grain and soybean markets helped to push prices lower over the last half of 2013. Likewise, after experiencing significant declines in 2012, sugar prices continued to soften in 2013 as strong production continued pressure on the supply-and-demand balance. For other commodities like rice and cotton, however, slightly improved supply-and-demand fundamentals helped prices move marginally higher in 2013. Also, a slightly improving economy and tight supply levels helped to maintain and improve the price situation for much of the livestock sector.

Despite any difficulty producers may have experienced individually in 2013, producers collectively enjoyed record or nearly record yields and historically strong prices for many of the state’s agricultural commodities for the second year in a row. This resulted in total gross farm-gate value for the agricultural industry of $6.9 billion in 2013, an increase of 4 percent from the previous year. Plant enterprises experienced increases in gross farm-gate values, moving from $4.1 billion in 2012 to $4.2 billion in 2013, a 1 percent increase, due to strong returns from record yields for rice, feed grains and soybeans in 2013.

The 2013 gross farm-gate values of animal enterprises experienced increases of 10 percent from the 2012 values. Animal enterprises generated an estimated $2.1 billion in gross farm-gate value in 2013. Leading the way were the beef cattle and poultry industries, which experienced 18 and 6 percent increases, respectively, from the previous year. For beef cattle, significantly higher cattle prices helped push farm-gate values higher, while expanded production and slightly improved prices were the chief factors in the growth experienced by the poultry industry. Improvements in those two industries, with strong showings in the horse and dairy sectors, were more than enough to offset the slight reductions seen in some of the more minor animal enterprises.

Leading the way for the $658 million in gross farm-gate value generated by fisheries and wildlife enterprises were the marine fisheries and aquaculture industries. Increased marine fisheries landings in 2012 (the year reported for that sector), accompanied by higher prices, reflect the continued recovery of Gulf fisheries from the devastation of the oil spill experienced in 2009. The aquaculture sector was driven primarily by the farm-raised crawfish producers, who increased production slightly with higher harvests that helped offset lower prices to some degree. Farm-gate value from farm-raised alligators was substantially higher due to higher wholesale prices for both hides and meat. This increased alligator production revenue helped boost total value of aquaculture in Louisiana for 2013.

With the increased production experienced in many of the agricultural sectors in 2012, value-added activities associated with agricultural production also increased in 2013. When those commodities were cleaned, processed and packaged, the value added was estimated to be $4.9 billion. Taken together with farm-gate values, value-added activities helped to generate $11.8 billion in total economic contributions to Louisiana during 2013. This represents a 4 percent increase from 2012 and shows that the agricultural and natural resource industries continue to be significant contributors to the state’s economy. Cutting-edge research programs and extension education and outreach efforts remain critical to sustaining these significant economic benefits.

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 mainly along the coast, although aquacultural production of catfish is located mainly in the northeast Louisiana delta area.

For each person who works in these industries day in and day out, agriculture, forestry and fisheries are far more than a business, a major job contributor or an economic engine. They truly are a way of life. Families have lived on many of these farms or forestlands or in these fishing villages for generations. They have been, and continue to be, following a preferred way of life – even though it means hard work, long hours, high risks and sometimes even low income.

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.

Agriculture is a highly sophisticated segment of the national and world economy and is 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 (with its major branches of the Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service and the Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station) are proud to be part of Louisiana’s agricultural and natural resource industries, and we are committed to serving those industries and citizens across Louisiana in the years ahead.

William B. Richardson, LSU Vice President for Agriculture
LSU AgCenter