Kurt Guidry, Blanchard, Tobie M.
This publication tabulates the value of Louisiana agriculture in 2019. Agents and specialists of the Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service, as well as other agencies — both private and public — compiled the data. Their analyses focus on the animal, forestry, fisheries, plant and wildlife commodities that constitute our vital agricultural industry. Agricultural and natural resource industries contribute significantly to our state's economy with the potential for increased economic benefits and job creation through value-added processing in urban and rural communities throughout Louisiana.
The 2019 growing and harvest season was a struggle for most producers. Wet conditions in the spring and during planting along with high river levels caused difficulty for many commodities and either forced acreage to be shifted to other commodities or totally left unplanted. The difficult start to the growing season along with intermittent wet weather throughout the production and harvest seasons resulted in most of the state's major row crop commodities experiencing lower yields in 2019 as compared to the previous year. Per acre yields were down for corn, grain sorghum, rice, soybeans and sugarcane. In addition to lower yields, soybean acres were markedly lower in 2019, falling below 1 million acres for the first time in many years. Wet conditions and flooding at planting and early in the production year forced many acres to be lost or simply left unplanted. For sugarcane, adverse weather conditions in 2019 only helped to further the damage that was caused to the stubble crop from the extremely wet harvest in 2018. While cotton yields were up in 2019, they were only up marginally as wet, and unfavorable conditions in 2019 likely limited the potential of that crop as well.
In addition to the production difficulties experienced in 2019, producers also faced an uncertain market environment. Trade disputes and tougher trade policies helped to create a great deal of volatility in commodity markets. Significant slowdowns in export sales were experienced for most row crop commodities and some livestock commodities. Despite relatively strong and stable domestic demand during 2019, the uncertainty regarding trade and trade policy did slowly start to impact commodity prices. For the 2019 calendar year, sharp declines were experienced for cotton, soybeans, rice, wheat and grain sorghum. Corn prices during the 2019 calendar year were able to remain mostly unchanged from the previous year, but this was primarily a function of lower overall production and supplies in the United States in 2019 and not a function of strong demand.
Prices in 2019 for the livestock sector were mixed. All cattle prices were lower in 2019 as disruptions in the cattle processing sector sent shock waves throughout the industry. So, despite generally favorable demand, slowdowns in processing and the movement of beef through marketing channels helped to push prices downward for all classes of beef cattle. Likewise, broiler prices and other poultry prices were generally marginally lower in 2019 as increases in overall production of those products helped to put downward pressure on prices. Conversely, improving supply dynamics for the dairy industry helped to push milk prices marginally higher. That, along with improving domestic and export demand for milk and other dairy products, helped to support prices. Prices for other livestock species (horses, sheep, goats and pigs) were also marginally higher in 2019.
Prices for the fisheries and wildlife enterprises were also mixed in 2019. Prices for farm-raised crawfish were higher as demand continued to expand and outpace supplies. Other fishery prices that experienced increases in 2019 were oysters, menhaden and crabs. Prices for shrimp, farm-raised and wild-caught alligators, and freshwater and saltwater fish were all marginally lower in 2019. Continued issues over demand for alligators pressured prices during 2019, while increased competition from imported products continued to limit prices for shrimp and finfish. Finally, honey prices continued to increase in 2019, up marginally over the previous year. Increased interest in honey production and demand continues to provide strong fundamentals for this sector.
As is the case in most years, there are some commodities in 2019 that performed well both from a production and price standpoint and other commodities that faced significant challenges. This resulted in total gross farm values for different commodities and different commodity groups to vary significantly. Total gross farm value across all plant enterprises was down 6.41% from the previous year. Despite forestry values being up in 2019, lower yields and lower prices for much of the state's major row crop sector helped push total farm gate values down. Similarly, gross farm value across all fisheries and wildlife enterprises were down marginally, less than 1% from the previous year.
Despite lower prices for many of the fishery commodities, larger production levels helped to minimize the overall impact. Finally, the gross farm value across all livestock enterprises saw the largest decrease from the previous year, down over 10%. Lower prices for beef cattle and broiler production more than offset slight increases for some of the smaller animal enterprises in the state.
When the commodities produced by agricultural producers are cleaned, processed and packaged at the next stages of the marketing channel, these value-added activities create additional economic activity over and above that defined by the gross farm value. In 2019, these value-added activities were estimated to have an additional economic impact of $5.2 billion. Taken together, the gross farm value and value-added activities were estimated to have a total economic impact of nearly $11.2 billion. This represents a 4.37% decrease from 2018. Given the level of economic activity that the state's agriculture, forestry and fishery industries continue to generate each year, it is undeniable that they continue to be major contributors to the overall state's economy. Cutting-edge research programs and extension education and outreach efforts of the LSU AgCenter remain critical to sustaining these economic benefits.
Many Louisiana communities depend on agriculture, forestry, fisheries and wildlife for local jobs and their economic well-being. However, for those who work in it day in and day out, agriculture, forestry and fisheries are far more than a business, a major job contributor and an economic engine. It truly is a way of life. Families have lived on many of these farms, forest lands or fishing villages for generations following a preferred way of life even though it means hard work, many hours, high risk and sometimes low incomes.
Each new production season has risks associated with commodity prices, trade agreements and higher input costs as well as uncertainty related to the weather. These conditions make the discovery and adoption of new agricultural technology developed by the LSU AgCenter more important than ever to our state's producers. Agriculture is a highly sophisticated segment of the national and world economy, becoming increasingly so every year. That is the reason we at the LSU AgCenter continue to support agriculture and consumers with factual information provided by a well-trained faculty of extension agents, specialists and research scientists.
Those of us in the LSU AgCenter, with its major branches the Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service and the Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station, are proud to be part of Louisiana's agricultural industry. We are committed to serving that industry and the citizens across the state of Louisiana in the years ahead.
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