Linda Benedict | 2/26/2010 2:42:37 AM
Agriculture is one of the primary economic engines for Louisiana. The agriculture industry, which encompasses many facets in the farm-gate-to-dinner-plate spectrum, is all together about a $30 billion piece of the Louisiana economy. And it only promises to grow as the demand continues to escalate for more plants and plant products to be used as biofuel. As our population increases, the demand for more food and fiber produced in our agriculture industry will likewise increase.
The LSU AgCenter, which is headquartered in Baton Rouge, conducts agricultural research at 20 research stations across the state and in 11 departments on the LSU campus. The results of this research are then extended to the farmers, consumers and business people of Louisiana through extension agents, who are located in extension offices in all 64 Louisiana parishes (counties).
The LSU AgCenter research and extension programs have a long history of doing good things for Louisiana. The focus areas have changed as the needs have changed. Currently, focus areas include:
– Develop new crop varieties as old ones succumb to the destructive diseases, weeds and insects in our climate.
– Enhance the animal agriculture business, which includes poultry, cattle, dairy, shrimp, oysters and crawfish.
– Preserve Louisiana’s coast and wetlands through the knowledge gained from traditional crop development.
– Come up with new biofuels and uses for agricultural waste to help our environment and reduce dependence on foreign oil.
– Create food products that are functional, which means enhanced with ingredients that help people meet their nutritional needs and lose weight.
–Prevent childhood obesity and thus slow the overweight epidemic that is hurting individual health and the state’s economy.
– Keep housing sustainable and affordable through educational programs provided from our LaHouse model home.
– Help youth grow into responsible adults through our 4-H program, of which more than 4 million young people have been part since its beginnings in Louisiana in 1908.
Our array of programs is broad and impressive. Our knowledge of agriculture, natural resources, food and fiber makes us a unique contributor to the state’s educational network. Unfortunately, our budget has been cut to the point where we face eliminating many of these programs, which have made such a difference in the lives of the people of Louisiana. Unlike other institutions of higher education, we cannot raise tuition to offset these losses.
If you would like to learn more about who we are and what we do, I encourage you to go to our 2009 Annual Report, which is online. The link to this report – www.lsuagcenter.com/annualreport2009 – goes to a Web page that includes our highlights from 2009 and links to more information.
The LSU AgCenter is here to serve you, and we will continue to do so as long as we exist. Please let me know if you have any questions.
Bill Richardson, Chancellor
(This article was published in the winter 2010 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)