Stephen R. Mullen, Morgan, Johnny W. | 10/8/2008 9:51:21 PM
NEW ORLEANS – Dozens of agricultural leaders from throughout Louisiana met recently to discuss ways to help make the state’s agricultural industry competitive in the 21st century, organizers said.
“When we think of New Orleans, probably the first thing that comes to mind for most people is food, but few people stop and think about the major role of agriculture in this city,” said Dr. Steve Mullen, LSU AgCenter regional director and one of the planners of the meeting.
Though the meeting was planned with the future in mind, the current state of agriculture and its problems could not be ignored.
“This is the largest agricultural challenge that we’ve ever faced in Louisiana, and right at harvest time,” said Dr. Mike Strain, Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry. “Every area of the state was affected either by rain, wind or hail,” he said of the challenges Louisiana farmers face in the wake of storm damage from hurricanes Fay, Gustav and Ike.
Strain outlined the role that his department played during the recent storms and discussed the impact of the storms on Louisiana agriculture.
He discussed the trips he made to Washington following the storms. He said that while he did get to discuss the agriculture situation with people who could help, he learned the recent Farm Bill never anticipated a disaster that affected an entire state.
“Right now, 60 percent of the country’s grain exports go through New Orleans,” Strain said. “The port of South Louisiana is the busiest in the United States and the third busiest in the world.”
Other program participants included Dr. Tim Ryan, chancellor of the University of New Orleans; Buck Vandersteen, executive director of the Louisiana Forestry Association; Bobby Landry, director of marketing for New Orleans Port Commission; Jim Monroe, assistant to the president of the Louisiana Farm Bureau; Ewell Smith, executive director of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion Board; and Drs. Lynn Kennedy and Kurt Guidry, agricultural economists with the LSU AgCenter.
Monroe said this year’s hurricanes did more damage to Louisiana’s agriculture industry than most people realize.
“This could have been one of the best years ever for Louisiana agriculture, had we not seen the hurricanes,” he said.
Each speaker spent a few minutes discussing his industry and explaining how it fits into the overall agricultural economy.
Rep. Johnny Guinn of Jennings and Rep. Scott M. Simon of Abita Springs attended and had high praise for the summit.
Guinn, who sits on the house agriculture committee, said the meeting was an “educational seminar” for him.
“Dr. Strain gave a good overview of the industry and showed the importance of the industry to the state,” Guinn said.
Simon said bringing in different facets of agriculture, discussing each part and seeing who can help who and determining who can do what to promote the industry is a “tremendous opportunity.”
“Awareness is key,” Simon said. “The agriculture industry is not only important, but it’s one of the main cogs in the wheel for the economics and well-being of the state.
The Louisiana Agribusiness Leadership Summit was sponsored by the Greater New Orleans Agribusiness Council in cooperation with the LSU AgCenter, the Audubon Institute, the Southern United States Trade Association, Louisiana Farm Bureau, Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, Port of New Orleans, Greater New Orleans Inc., Louisiana Egg Commission and U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Contact: Steve Mullen at (504) 838-1170 or email@example.com
Writer: Johnny Morgan at (225) 578-8484 or firstname.lastname@example.org