Budget cuts force LSU AgCenter to phase out 3 research stations

News Release Distributed 04/01/11

Because of cuts in state funding and to make more efficient use of resources, the LSU AgCenter has begun phasing out research programs at three of its 20 research stations.

The three are the Coastal Area Research Station in Plaquemines Parish, the Rosepine Research Station in Vernon Parish and the Calhoun Research Station in Ouachita Parish.

“We are merging the programs at these stations into programs at other stations to make a more efficient use of our resources,” said Bill Richardson, LSU AgCenter chancellor. “Unfortunately, this will entail the layoff of several employees, which we had hoped to avoid as we trim budgets.”

The stations are scheduled to be closed beginning July 1 and possibly later for Calhoun. The eventual savings in overhead costs to maintain these stations should be about $750,000, Richardson said.

“The loss of these stations no doubt will slow down some of the progress in research breakthroughs. But our research program will remain strong. Our research discoveries open the doors to economic development opportunities for Louisiana,” Richardson said.

The main focus of research at the Coastal Area Station has been the development of new faster-growing breeds of plants to be used to shore up Louisiana’s coastline and restore damaged marshes. This research will be moved to the Aquaculture Research Station in Baton Rouge.

The station’s research coordinator is already housed on the LSU AgCenter campus in Baton Rouge. The remaining five support staff positions will be eliminated. The 100-acre property near Port Sulphur is owned by the parish, and management will revert back to the parish government, Richardson said.

That station was established in 1948 to conduct research on citrus to support the local citrus industry. But most of the citrus acreage became contaminated by saltwater from hurricane storm surges and could no longer sustain the citrus trees.

“Louisiana’s citrus industry has greatly benefited from our research on how to control citrus insect pests and diseases,” Richardson said.

To accommodate the new emphasis on marsh plants, the AgCenter had constructed two greenhouses and dug eight ponds with an underground irrigation system.

“It’s heartbreaking to walk away from this,” Richardson said.

AgCenter scientists also conduct research on the Formosan subterranean termite at the station, which will be shut down.

“We’ll lose a valuable part of this research, which is critical in Louisiana,” Richardson said. “But we also conduct this research in New Orleans and Baton Rouge.”

Five full-time employees and one part-time employee will lose their jobs at the Rosepine Research Station, where research on beef cattle and forage production is conducted. The two AgCenter scientists who have research projects there are not housed there and will retain their jobs. One is at the Hill Farm Research Station in Claiborne Parish, and the other is at the Dean Lee Research Station in Rapides Parish.

About 500 head of cattle are kept at the station, and most of these will be sold over the next few months, Richardson said.

“We also will transfer some of the herd to other research stations,” Richardson said.

The AgCenter owns the 740 acres on the Rosepine Station.

“We’re still deciding the fate of this property,” Richardson said.

Of the 400 acres at the Calhoun Research Station, the AgCenter owns only 80, which is mainly in forests used for research projects on water quality and forest land fertility. The two scientists in charge of these projects are housed elsewhere – one at Hill Farm and the other on the AgCenter campus in Baton Rouge.

The other research project at the station involves finding new uses for wood products. The two research scientists and their two research associates housed at the station will move to the Dean Lee Station. A third research associate at Calhoun will fill an opening that just came up at the Red River Station, Richardson said.

The remaining four support staff will lose their jobs.

Calhoun is the oldest station in the Louisiana Agriculture Experiment Station, having been established in 1888.

The LSU AgCenter is one of 11 institutions of higher education in the Louisiana State University System. Headquartered in Baton Rouge, the AgCenter provides educational services in every parish through the Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service and conducts research through the Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station.

The LSU AgCenter does not have students and does not benefit from tuition and fee increases to students at other LSU institutions.

Linda Foster Benedict

4/1/2011 7:55:22 PM
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