Two LSU AgCenter Faculty Win National Award For Disaster Recovery Efforts

Gail L. Cramer, Salassi, Michael, Benedict, Linda F.  |  9/11/2007 6:39:35 PM

Ben Legendre, sugarcane specialist, at left, and Mike Salassi, ag economist, at right, were among the five winners of a team award from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency. Teresa Lasseter, the administrator of that agency, center, presented the award. Other members of the team were Daniel Colacicco, next to Legendre, and Barbara Fesco, next to Salassi. Not pictured is Willie Cooper. Legendre and Salassi are with the LSU AgCenter. The others are with the FSA. (Click photo to download larger image.)

News Release Distributed 08/29/07

Two LSU AgCenter faculty members were among a team that won a national U.S. Department of Agriculture service award for their efforts in helping the sugarcane industry recover from the disaster caused by hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.

Dr. Mike Salassi, an agricultural economist, and Dr. Ben Legendre, a sugarcane specialist and interim head of the Audubon Sugar Institute, were among a team of five that received the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) Award for Service to Agriculture in the category of Outstanding Team Accomplishment.

The other team members were Dr. Barbara Fesco and Dr. Daniel Colacicco, both with the FSA in Washington, D.C., and Willie F. Cooper, Louisiana’s FSA director in Alexandria, La.

“They were able to carry out Congress’ will in distributing disaster payments to individual farmers in a fair and equitable manner,” said Dr. Gail Cramer, head of the Department of Agricultural Economics & Agribusiness. “That is difficult to do. There are many producers, and they all have different amounts coming.”

The group designed the implementation plan for distribution of recovery payments to sugarcane farmers under the Emergency Agricultural Disaster Assistance Act of 2006.

“Their plan, brilliantly executed, resulted in no appeals to any of the payment determinations made by FSA, in spite of the difficult, congressionally mandated program requirements,” Cramer said.

FSA payments were made to the farmers in March and April of 2007, in time to help them obtain financing on their 2007 crop. About $40 million was distributed among Louisiana sugarcane producers.

“This involved setting up a system to estimate yield loss and disaster payments on individual tracts of sugarcane land,” Salassi said. “It’s the same system we used in 2003 after the storms that hit Louisiana in 2002. With the 2005 storms, however, the appropriation had an additional compensation for sugarcane land, which was flooded by the tidal surge. And that’s where Ben (Legendre) and the county agents were extremely helpful in establishing the flood line.”

The award was presented at a ceremony on Aug. 16 at USDA headquarters in Washington, D.C., by Teresa Lasseter, administrator of the Farm Service Agency.

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Contacts: Gail Cramer at (225) 578-3282, or gcramer@agcenter.lsu.edu 
Mike Salassi at (225) 578-2713, or msalassi@agcenter.lsu.edu

Writer: Linda Foster Benedict at (225) 578-2937, or lbenedict@agcenter.lsu.edu

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