Food Processors Voice Concerns At Commerce Committee Hearing

4/21/2005 11:53:14 PM

News Release Distributed 02/21/05

"The people are here, the businesses are here, the opportunity is here," Sam Scelfo said of Louisiana’s opportunity to create new jobs through the food-processing industry.

Scelfo of Gambino’s Bakery & Food Service in New Orleans spoke at a hearing conducted by the Louisiana House Commerce Committee on Wednesday (Feb. 16) at the C.B. Pennington Jr. Conference Center in Baton Rouge.

The hearing, held in conjunction with the LSU AgCenter’s third annual Food Processors Conference, was called to hear the problems and concerns of the food-processing industry in Louisiana, said state Rep. Gil Pinac, D-Crowley, committee chairman.

"We want to relate economic development to the industry," Pinac said to the industry representatives testifying before the committee. "You’re the backbone of what we do."

Most speakers pushed for generating economic activity through companies already operating in the state and generally expressed concern about the state’s economic development department not serving existing Louisiana companies. But many of the speakers said the LSU AgCenter has provided significant assistance to the state’s food processors.

"We need to take care of those that are here now," said Bobby Yarborough of Manda Fine Foods in Baton Rouge.

Stressing that food safety is important to processors, Yarborough said the LSU AgCenter has helped his company and others produce better and higher quality products.

"Today, we have better margins of safety in our meat products," he said, adding that the LSU AgCenter’s Department of Food Science "is helping keep us in business."

Rep. Diane Winston, R-Covington, cited the LSU AgCenter’s work in providing "technical expertise and capacity-building expertise" to the food-processing industry and questioned the role other state agencies are playing in helping the food processors.

"The perception that we’re using economic development money to lure big fish is real," she said. "Small business is something that needs attention."

Another industry speaker, Darrel Rivere of Rivere’s Foods Inc. of Pierre Part, said food processing could expand in Louisiana and become an even more important contributor to economic activity in the state.

"Nurtured properly, the food industry could have serious impact on the state of Louisiana," he said. "This industry has great growth potential in our area."

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Writer: Rick Bogren at (225) 578-5839 or rbogren@agcenter.lsu.edu

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