William R. Mcclain, Shirley, Mark G., Schultz, Bruce
CROWLEY – Turnout for the 2004 Crawfish Expo held Thursday (Dec. 9) in Crowley exceeded expectations, according to organizers of the educational event and trade show.
Louisiana Crawfish Farmers’ Association President Stephen Minvielle said they were pleased to see as many as 600 people attend the event, and he predicted there might have been even more had it not been for many producers harvesting crawfish that day.
The event marked the return of the Louisiana Crawfish Farmers Association, which has been dormant for the past few years.
Almost four dozen vendors had booths to showcase their products and services – everything from boat builders to trap manufacturers and labor importers.
"We had vendors say, ‘Put me down for next year and send me the bill,’" Minvielle said.
LSU AgCenter Chancellor Bill Richardson told association members that Louisiana has 1,250 crawfish producers with a gross income of $50 million. He also said the AgCenter has developed best management practices for aquaculture.
"We have less chance of people coming in from Washington if we do the best we can to make sure we do things right," Richardson said of the efforts to make sure agricultural production has the least possible impact on the environment – one of the purposes of the best management practices.
The LSU AgCenter also is working to help with value-added products, which is another way of making Louisiana crawfish more competitive, he said.
The chancellor said foreign crawfish aren’t welcome in the Richardson household.
"We’ll do without it if we can’t get Louisiana crawfish," he said.
Along those lines, Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry Bob Odom reminded producers that tariffs imposed on imported crawfish are restricted by law for processors only.
"We would love to see the farmer get some of it, but there is no way we see that happening," Odom said.
The commissioner said work is beginning on the new federal Farm Bill, which is up for adoption in 2007. He warned that payment price supports may be eliminated and that Asian soybean rust could force many Louisiana farmers to find an alternative to growing soybeans.
Another of the day’s speakers, Dwight Landreneau, commissioner for the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, said the reorganization of the LCFA is a positive step for crawfish producers.
"To see you back together is extremely exciting for me," he said.
Landreneau said the aquaculture industry will benefit from a 2004 Louisiana legislative act that created an Aquaculture Advisory Board that will help producers of crawfish, catfish, alligators and shrimp.
As for the expo, farmers appeared enthusiastic about the event.
Paul Rodriguez of New Iberia, who farms about 100 acres, said he’s glad the LCFA is back. "We need somebody to help us out," he said.
Ed Guidry of Branch said the event gave him the chance to meet others in the business. "I was surprised about the turnout," he said.
Bryan LeJeune of Iberia Parish said he’s just gotten started in crawfish farming with 198 acres, and the expo gave him the chance to get needed information.
"I didn’t know they had this many people supporting us," he said. "It’s all new to me. I’m a cane farmer."
Walter Dugas of Lake Arthur said he learned a lot from the seminars, especially the talk by Dr. Ray McClain, LSU AgCenter crawfish specialist, who gave advice on stocking ponds, based on several research projects.
McClain advised farmers to get brood stock from several different sources and to spread stocking over several weeks.
It doesn’t matter where stocking crawfish are from, either the Atchafalaya Basin or ponds, McClain said. He advised stocking at the rate of 50 pounds to 60 pounds an acre. And he cautioned against draining a pond immediately after stocking – to give crawfish the chance to mate.
In addition to stocking with mature crawfish, McClain said adding some immature stockers can spread the crop over several weeks.
He also advised not to stock by dumping crawfish on levees. "Crawfish need to go in the water, not on the levee," McClain said.
Dr. Jay Huner of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Crawfish Research Center said computer models are available to help predict crawfish production.
He said harvesting is best with 20- 25 traps per acre and when it’s limited to three days a week. Crawfish are more active at night and during cloudy weather, Huner said.