Holiday Foods Dont Just Taste Good; Louisiana Economy Benefits

Thomas A. Merrill  |  12/13/2005 4:37:56 AM

Sweet potatoes and pecans are more than tasty holidiay treats. They're also parts in a complex food and fiber system that contributes to Louisiana's economy.

News Release Distributed 12/12/05

The holiday foods many people enjoy this time of year aren’t just tasty treats. They’re also part of a food and fiber sector that contributes handily to Louisiana’s economy.

Agricultural products and natural resources contribute billions of dollars to Louisiana's economy all year round, according to figures from the LSU AgCenter. A significant part of that economic impact comes from the contributions of such favorite holiday foods as sweet potatoes, oysters, pecans, citrus, pumpkins, poultry, sweet corn and other vegetables – not to mention the ever-popular ingredients sugar and rice, which play a part in a lot of our dishes.

"Agriculture in Louisiana is big business, and it continues to be a major contributor to the state’s economy," LSU AgCenter Chancellor William B. "Bill" Richardson points out. "Production of the food and fiber we need every day is a critical part of the business of agriculture."

The production and processing of agricultural commodities meant more than $10.7 billion to the state's economy in 2004, according to LSU AgCenter’s Louisiana Summary of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Better yet, Louisiana businesses generated $23 billion in food and fiber products and services during 2004 and employed approximately 250,000 workers.

Poultry is one of the leading segments in Louisiana’s agricultural industries, as well as a staple in many holiday dinners. The production and processing of poultry in Louisiana made a total contribution of more than $1.5 billion to the state’s economy last year.

Almost a billion pounds of broilers were produced in Louisiana during 2004, and the income generated by poultry production makes it the state’s largest animal enterprise. Poultry is produced in 27 Louisiana parishes – with Union Parish leading the way as the top-producing parish.

Of course, poultry isn’t alone in playing a part in the state’s economy or in making delicious contributions to meals all year long. Among the holiday favorites and their economic contributions are:

–Sweet potatoes. Despite problems with wet weather at planting time followed by a drought during the growing season that limited production, the state's farmers, who were led by those in Franklin Parish, produced close to 5 million bushels of sweet potatoes with an on-farm value of nearly $48 million in 2004. Coupled with processing of the products in Louisiana, the total economic contribution of the sweet potato industry rose to nearly $83 million last year.

–Oysters. Louisiana oyster producers harvested nearly 2 million sacks of this delicacy in 2003, the latest year for which the LSU AgCenter reported figures. Those oysters posted a value of more than $33 million before any further processing or sales in the state.

–Pecans. These nuts are known more for their role in pies and other holiday treats, but pecans also play a part in Louisiana's economy. More than 4.4 million pounds of pecans were produced in the state during 2004, and they posted a total economic value of nearly $11 million.

–Pumpkins. Although their contribution to pies for holiday dinners may be their greatest benefit, pumpkins also make an economic contribution to Louisiana. The statewide production of fresh pumpkins in Louisiana last year was more than 24,000 hundred-weight, worth just under $489,000 at the farm gate.

–Sweet Corn, Other Vegetables. Sweet corn was produced by about 250 growers across the state, who turned out nearly 4.5 million ears of corn worth more than $1.1 million as it left the farm last year. But the vegetables don’t stop with corn. There are a host of other vegetables grown in the state that may be on your table this year, and the Louisiana commercial vegetable industry involves nearly 1,500 growers in 52 parishes who produce more than 50 different vegetable crops, including tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, eggplants and cabbages. Those vegetables posted a gross farm value of nearly $47 million and a total economic contribution of nearly $117 million last year.

–Citrus. Louisiana citrus, which includes popular satsumas and navel oranges, represents a $6.3 million industry and was grown in 14 southern parishes in 2004.

–Sugarcane. Much of the sugar you use in various holiday treats may have been grown right here in Louisiana. Sugarcane was grown on nearly 450,000 acres in 24 Louisiana parishes last year. It posted a gross farm value of nearly $303 million and contributions from further processing of nearly $194 million – for a total economic boost of more than $496 million in 2004.

–Rice. For those who prefer rice dressing or those who make casseroles and side dishes with this Louisiana favorite, rice also is an important element in holiday meals. Even more, it's an important element in the state's economy, with nearly 1,500 producers harvesting more than 3.1 billion pounds of rice worth more than $249 million at the farm gate last year. Coupled with the $75 million from further processing in the state, that means rice contributed approximately $324 million to Louisiana’s economy in 2004.

–Christmas trees. Although fiber production for lumber, paper, furniture and so forth makes up the larger part of the forest products industries in the state, growing Christmas trees also is a segment of those industries. Louisiana growers produced nearly 28,000 Christmas trees worth more than $1.1 million in 2004.

"Although agriculture is a business, it’s also much more to those who work in it day-in and day-out. For them, it is a way of life," Richardson said, adding, "No one would doubt that the production of food is a way of life for Louisiana's farm families and that it’s a necessity for all of us who have to eat."

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Contact: Tom Merrill at (225) 578-2263 or tmerrill@agcenter.lsu.edu

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