2021 Louisiana Summary: Agriculture & Natural Resources

Kurt Guidry, Blanchard, Tobie M.

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This publication tabulates the value of Louisiana agriculture in 2021. Agents and specialists of the Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service, as well as other agencies – both private and public – compiled the data. Their analysis focuses on the animal, forestry, fisheries, plant and wildlife commodities that comprise 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.

As with most years, the 2021 production year for the state’s food and fiber sector had its share of challenges and issues. While a rebound in demand was evident from the 2020 pandemic year, impacts continued to linger as supply chain disruptions and delays created difficulty and uncertainty not only for securing needed inputs but also for normal movement of commodities through marketing channels. Adding to the remaining impacts of the pandemic were weather-related challenges. The growing season started with cooler and wetter than normal conditions which impacted planting. This was followed by rains that persisted throughout much of the summer. And while the rainfall was a positive to meeting the moisture demands of commodities, it also likely delayed optimal timing of inputs and hindered other critical farm activities. The rainfall persisted through most of the summer and only ended after a major hurricane made landfall in the southeastern portion of the Louisiana coast. Hurricane Ida made landfall on Aug. 29, 2021, as a Category 4 hurricane. Estimates done shortly after the hurricane placed total impacts of loss revenue and increased costs to the agricultural sector at $268 million with another $315 million in impacts to the forestry sector. Given the path and nature of the storm, the biggest impact to the agricultural sector was in infrastructure damage. Damage to fencing, farm structures and farm equipment, represented $207 million of the $268 million total impact to agriculture. While the impacts specifically to agricultural commodities were relatively small, there were production impacts reported for sugarcane, fruits and vegetables, horticulture and livestock.

Despite the issues and challenges, year-over-year increases in production and gross farm value were seen for many commodities within the state’s food and fiber sector. While persistent rains and Hurricane Ida caused significant hurdles for many producers earlier in the production year, more favorable conditions persisted for much of the fall supporting harvest and harvest efficiency for many commodities. In addition, ample moisture throughout much of the growing season was believed to have limited crop stresses and helped mitigate some of the other negative weather-related impacts experienced throughout the year. While these factors may have helped limit the impacts on overall yields, the increases seen in 2021 over 2020 were likely more a function of the lower, storm impacted yields of 2020 rather than growing conditions in 2021. Nevertheless, increases in yields were seen for cotton, corn, rice, soybeans, sweet potatoes and wheat. And while decreases in yields were seen for grain sorghum and sugarcane, total production for these commodities still showed year-over-year increases as lower yields were more than offset by acreage increases. Grain sorghum yields were down marginally from 2020 but remained well within normal or typical levels. Sugar yield per acre was down by nearly 7% in 2021 as the path of Hurricane Ida and its impact covered significant sugarcane production areas in the state. Hay production was the only major plant enterprise that experienced both lower yields and lower overall total production in 2021. Hay yields were down marginally (roughly 4%) in 2021 as persistent rains throughout much of the summer limited the number of total hay cuttings for many producers.

While there were some production challenges, improvements in demand and increased market access as restrictions and impacts from the pandemic solely began to lessen helped to support prices for most the state’s agricultural commodities. Prices for the state’s major plant enterprises experienced stable to sharply higher levels in 2021. Prices for cotton, corn, grain sorghum and soybeans all saw prices improve by more than 20% in 2021 over the previous year. Despite some remaining struggles in transportation logistics, reduced pandemic restrictions helped to significantly boost demand and market access for these commodities. Prices for rice, sugar and hay also experienced increases, though not at the level of those commodities. Rice prices improved by 4.5% while hay prices improved by roughly 8% and sugar prices by roughly 11%. Rice prices continued to enjoy very strong domestic demand while lower hay supplies caused by the excessive rains and hurricane helped to support hay prices. Strong demand and limited domestic supplies continue to support sugar prices at higher levels. Improved market conditions for other commodities helped push prices higher for other plant enterprises. Overall vegetable prices were up roughly 22% in 2021 while overall fruit prices were up roughly 9% and overall horticulture prices were up roughly 3%.

Like the plant enterprises, prices for the livestock sector generally experienced higher prices in 2021. In general, a rebound in overall demand and improvements in logistics throughout the marketing chain, as restrictions and impacts from the pandemic subsided, helped to support prices for all livestock enterprises. These improvements formed the base support for stronger livestock prices with market conditions for individual species adding additional support. For beef cattle, tight cattle supplies provided additional support to prices. Prices for different classes of cattle ranged from 2% to as high as 12% higher in 2021 over the previous year with an average increase across all classes of roughly 5.5%. Large price increases were also seen for sheep, goats and swine enterprises. The average increase in sheep prices across all classes was roughly 26% in 2021 while both goats and swine enterprises experienced an average price increase of roughly 14%. Again, strong demand and greater market access are believed to be the primary reason for those large increases. Poultry prices also rebounded nicely in 2021 after coming under significant pressure during the pandemic in 2020. Across the different poultry enterprises, prices in 2021 were, on average, 6% higher than the previous year. Broiler and pullet prices showed the largest year-over-year increase with broiler prices increasing by roughly 37% and pullet prices increasing by roughly 16%. For other livestock enterprises, prices remained mostly unchanged in 2021. Milk prices and dairy cattle prices increased by roughly 1% in 2021 while horse prices were mostly unchanged.

Unlike plant and livestock enterprises which saw mostly stronger prices in 2021, prices for fisheries and wildlife enterprises were much more mixed. Prices for most aquaculture enterprises were flat to higher in 2021 while prices for many of the fishery enterprises were down. Leading the way for the aquaculture enterprises were farm raised crawfish and catfish. Crawfish prices rebounded from the reduced demand and market access caused by the pandemic in 2020 while catfish prices continued a recent trend of higher prices. Crawfish prices were up nearly 24% in 2021 while catfish prices were up nearly 47%. While the data show that prices for most fisheries enterprises were down, it should be noted that the fisheries data used in this publication has a one-year time lag. As such, the data reported in this publication is reflective of production and market conditions in 2020 rather than 2021. Given this, it follows that prices for fisheries enterprises would show reductions from the previous year given the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Prices for all freshwater species (wild caught crawfish and freshwater finfish) and for wild caught alligators were down 3% to 6% from the previous year. Similarly, prices for shrimp and commercial finfish were down from the previous year. The only marine fisheries enterprise that showed year-over-year increases in prices was crabs. Finally, prices for fur animals and honey also experienced increases in 2021. Average pelt prices were up 11% while honey prices were up roughly 9%. For both commodities, the price increase does reflect improved market conditions and market access during the 2021 calendar year.

Despite the challenges of 2021, the overall farm-gate value of the state’s food and fiber sector increased over the previous year and was the highest over the last five years. Production levels for most commodities were able to reach or surpass previous year’s levels despite the weather-related challenges. And with a resurgence in demand and market access from the 2020 pandemic year, prices for most commodities experienced higher to significantly higher levels in 2021. The result is that for each of the three broad categories of enterprises (plant, livestock, and fisheries and wildlife), gross farm values increased in 2021. The total gross farm value for all plant enterprises was up over 12% from 2020 and was the largest level over the past 5 years. Total gross farm value for livestock enterprises was up roughly 5% from the previous year, predominately due to improved commodity prices. And while fisheries prices were down, large increases in crawfish production and improvements in prices for aquaculture commodities, the total gross farm value for fisheries and wildlife enterprises also experienced a roughly 5% increase over the previous year.

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 2021, these value-added activities were estimated to have an additional economic impact of $5.04 billion. Taken together, the gross farm value and value-added activities were estimated to have a total economic impact of nearly $11.55 billion. This represents nearly a 6% increase from 2020 and is the highest level since 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 risks 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 of the Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service and the Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station, are proud to be part of Louisiana’s agricultural industry, and we are committed to serving that industry and the citizens across the state of Louisiana in the years ahead.

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3/14/2024 9:17:51 PM
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