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November 4, 2008

LSU AgCenter sets up hotline for farmers needing financial advice

Increased input costs, tight profit margins and two major hurricanes created a difficult year for many of Louisiana’s agricultural producers. To help the state’s farmers, the LSU AgCenter has established a farm financial hotline to help them make financial decisions.

Producers looking for financial management and disaster assistance information or who want individual farm financial consultation can telephone (225) 578-2266. Located in the LSU AgCenter’s Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness, the hotline will be in operation from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Producers will be able to get information on current U.S. Department of Agriculture assistance programs as well as other farm management and marketing information. In addition, they may call the hotline to request an individual farm financial consultation.

Producers looking for an individual farm financial consultation will be connected with an LSU AgCenter agricultural economist to schedule an individual session. To get a relevant farm financial plan, producers are requested to provide the following information regarding their operation:

– A minimum of one year’s production cost records, preferably two to three years’ worth.

– A five-year yield history.

– USDA base program acres and payment yields by farm number.

– A list of all non-secured debts, including current balances, including items such as fuel bills, fertilizer bills, etc.

– A list of all intermediate and long-term loans, including payment levels and dates and current loan balances.

– Remaining balances on any 2008 crop production (operating) loans.

– List of any additional 2008 expected revenues.

– Information regarding family living expenses.

Kurt Guidry

October 9, 2008

Officials Keep Working on Help for Farmers

Fortunately, weather conditions following Hurricane Ike have been generally favorable as producers make their way back into the fields. Although the hurricanes were devastating to many producers, the damage could have easily been worse had the state gotten additional rains that would have caused additional delays to harvest.

While we are thankful for the improvement in weather conditions, it still does not eliminate that fact that many producers are faced with large yield reductions and significant quality damage to their crops. The LSU AgCenter will continue to monitor the development of harvest and will continue to look to refine our estimated economic impact of these storms. In addition, we will continue to address other issues from this storm – increased harvest and production costs, inability of producers to meet market contracts, and any multi-year production implications resulting from these storms. What we also know is that this storm will have an impact not only on our producers, but also on the entire the agribusiness sector that supports production agriculture. We will continue to attempt to address these issues and to finalize our damage estimates as additional information is obtained.

While the case was made that the disaster assistance available in the Farm Bill was going to be too little and too late to address the damage caused to our food and fiber sector, it has been unsuccessful, to this point, in getting additional disaster assistance from Congress. Our Congressional delegation and the Commissioner of Agriculture appear determined to continue to push for additional assistance once Congress reconvenes either later this year or early in 2009.

The one positive development has been the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s response to the state’s request to have the entire state declared a disaster area. Recently, the USDA named 52 parishes as primary disaster areas and the remaining 12 parishes as contiguous disaster areas. This declaration is important because it makes producers in all 64 parishes of the state eligible to participate in disaster assistance programs administered by the Farm Service Agency. While we still do not have the final rules and regulations on how the disaster programs in the Farm Bill will be implemented, this disaster declaration should, at least, quickly make the Emergency Loan Program available to producers. The Emergency Loan Program provides low-interest loans to producers who have experienced more than a 30 percent production loss or losses to infrastructure.

Finally, the state Farm Service Agency has requested funds to implement the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP). The ECP is a cost-share program that reimburses producers up to 75 percent of the estimated costs associated with debris removal and cleanup on farmland. In addition, the ECP will reimburse estimated expenses of repairing/replacing fence and making water available to livestock. Producers are encouraged to contact their local FSA office to stay informed about the availability of this and all disaster assistance programs.

Read “USDA Declares Parishes Disaster Areas.”

View the disaster declaration map.

Kurt Guidry

September 26, 2008

Ag Loss Numbers Continue to Climb

Estimates of losses to Louisiana agriculture, forestry and fisheries resulting from hurricanes Gustav and Ike continue to climb. LSU AgCenter agricultural economists now have the totals up to $950 million. These numbers include more than $760 million in lost revenue to Louisiana farmers, ranchers, foresters and fishers, as well as another $175 million to $200 million in damage to the industries’ infrastructure – farm equipment, barns, processing facilities and so forth.

Among the hardest hit, in terms of total lost revenue, are cotton, soybeans, timber, sugarcane, corn, rice, sweet potatoes and shrimp. But the millions in losses to those crops don’t tell the whole story. For example, in addition to losing more than half the state’s cotton and sweet potato crops, estimates show at least half the Louisiana pecan crop also was lost.

The infrastructure in the aquaculture and fishery industry was particularly hard hit because it’s right on the water, where it’s exposed to the fiercest wind and water damage.

Another piece of the story involves the cascading effects these losses have on communities across Louisiana whose economies rely heavily on agriculture and natural resource industries.

We are continuing to update our information about the ag losses. You can go to this link and read a one-page version, an eight-page version or the report with all the tables from the ag economists:

Preliminary estimates of losses in Louisiana agriculture, forestry and fisheries from Hurricane Gustav and Hurricane Ike

And you can read our latest press release about the losses.

Latest estimates show $950+ million in hurricane damage to Louisiana agriculture, forestry and fisheries

Bill Richardson

September 25, 2008

U.S. Senate Hears Louisiana Agriculture Disaster Needs

Two of our agricultural economists, Dr. Kurt Guidry and Dr. Mike Salassi, were in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday to take part in hearings before the U.S. Senate about the extent of the damage to Louisiana agriculture caused by hurricanes Gustav and Ike and the amount of help that is needed for our recovery. Both senators from Louisiana – Mary Landrieu and David Vitter – were in attendance. According to Dr. Guidry and Dr. Salassi, both Landrieu and Vitter made the points of the nature of the disaster, the time it happened (at harvest with most costs already sunk into the crops) and the inadequate nature of crop insurance and disaster programs in the Farm Bill.

During testimony questions were asked by the senators about the final development of rules to implement disaster programs and conservation programs. Those have not yet been developed, and no real time frame was given for ultimate finalization.

Vitter asked about the potential for pushing back dates for crop insurance sign-up for fall planted crops (sugar) and about flexibility of crop insurance to keep producers from having to destroy a zeroed crop before getting crop insurance indemnity. This was primarily in regard to flooded acres that are still flooded and the time and expense it would require to disk a crop that everyone knows (the field was flooded for several days) is a complete loss. U.S. Department of Agriculture officials agreed to check on what could be done. Beyond that no potential options were offered. Landrieu was very forceful in getting across the point that producers could not wait until the final rules are developed and could not wait until the end of the marketing year for assistance.

Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry, Dr. Mike Strain, gave testimony along with farmers Dickie Ellender and Jay Hardwick. Strain spoke about crop insurance premiums in Louisiana versus the Midwest (Louisiana premiums are double the cost of Iowa for buy-up levels) and that crop insurance didn't offer much help. It was also mentioned that the SURE (Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments) program payments will be too late (likely not until the fall of 2009) and too little for Louisiana producers. Dr. Strain said additional funds are needed and requested.

Beyond that, according to our agricultural economists, no hard and fast alternatives were discussed during the hearings. So currently there is no commitment for any funds. There is some talk on the Senate side about help, but, to this point, no talk on the House side.

As I learn more, I will pass on in this blog. You can read details of the Ag Crop Losses on this page. Please note the other resources offered. And please let me know if you want more information.

Bill Richardson

September 22, 2008

Two Economists to Testify Before U.S. Senate

LSU AgCenter agricultural economists Dr. Kurt Guidry and Dr. Mike Salassi head to Washington, D.C., tomorrow to do what they can to help Louisiana get the kind of disaster relief needed to recover from the two hurricanes. They will testify before U.S. Senate committees, providing the Senators with the facts and figures about the effects of the hurricanes on agriculture and the state’s infrastructure. The direct losses to farmers are just a small part of the picture. Many communities and many related industries are dependent upon agriculture.

You can read details of their reports at the Ag Crop Losses link on this page. Please note the other resources offered. And please let me know if you want more information.

Bill Richardson

September 19, 2008

Loss Figures Keep Climbing

The dollar loss to Louisiana agriculture because of hurricanes Gustav and Ike is staggering. LSU AgCenter agricultural economists, commodity specialists and county agents have been doing extensive documentation of the devastation to help bring a realistic picture of the amount of federal aid needed for the recovery.

Dr. Kurt Guidry, LSU AgCenter agricultural economist, said the estimated revenue lost in the agriculture and forestry industries because of the two hurricanes is more than $635 million. In addition, Dr. Rex Caffey, LSU AgCenter agricultural economist who works with the fisheries and other natural resource-based industries, said the loss there, which is more difficult to predict, is anywhere between $69 million and $125 million.

These estimates do not include losses to infrastructure, which preliminary estimates place at more than $10 million for agriculture and forestry and from $63 to $89 million for aquaculture and fisheries. They also do not include any increased costs producers may incur as a result of the storms.

You can read details of their reports at the Ag Crop Losses link on this page. Please note the other resources offered. And please let me know if you want more information.

Bill Richardson

September 17, 2008

Seeking Help for Louisiana Agriculture

Yesterday, a group of us met with the entire Louisiana Congressional delegation to discuss the letter that Governor Bobby Jindal wrote to the leadership in the House and the Senate outlining the assistance that Louisiana urgently needs to recover from the disaster caused by the two hurricanes Gustav and Ike. Read a PDF of the letter.

The group that met with the Louisiana Congressional representatives and senators included Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry Mike Strain; Louisiana Farm Bureau President Ronnie Anderson; Sen. Francis Thompson, chair of the Senate ag committee; Rep. Andy Anders, chair of the House ag committee; Rep. Bodi White; Rep. Sam Little; Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu and me. We discussed the six requests in the letter. The delegation gave us their full support in helping to get the requests fulfilled.

Later today we will meet with Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer. I will continue to post updates.

Bill Richardson

September 15, 2008

Ag Loss and Recovery Updates

The LSU AgCenter is launching this Web site to serve as a central place for agricultural disaster loss information. We are posting up-to-date information on agricultural losses, recovery efforts and other information important to the agricultural community.

Commissioner of Agriculture Mike Strain, Louisiana Farm Bureau President Ronnie Anderson and myself will be meeting with Governor Bobby Jindal at 1:30 p.m. today to share with him the agricultural losses and ask for his assistance in getting some monetary relief. Then the same group flies to Washington, D.C., to meet with the Secretary of Agriculture on Wednesday morning to ask for U.S. Department of Agriculture assistance. We will also meet individually with the Louisiana congressional delegation.

Yesterday, Strain, Anderson, State Senator Francis Thompson, who is chair of the Senate agricultural committee, and I had a conference call with our two U.S. Senators – David Vitter and Mary Landrieu.

I will post more information this week as follow-up to the meetings and as we update loss information.

Bill Richardson

Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry
Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries
Farm Bureau
more resources from
Disaster Information Resources
Storm Recovery Guide
Cleaning Up Flood-Damaged Homes