Louisiana ag economy grows to $12.7 billion in 2014

Richard Bogren, Westra, John

Planting corn at the LSU AgCenter Dean Lee Research and Extension Center in Alexandria. (Photo by Craig Gautreaux)

News Release Distributed 04/06/15

BATON ROUGE, La. – Louisiana agriculture as a whole contributed $12.7 billion to the state’s economy in 2014, as reported in the 2014 Ag Summary from the LSU AgCenter, which was released today online. Net value for all sectors was up 7.6 percent, or $900 million, from 2013, said AgCenter economist John Westra.

“For the third year in a row, Louisiana farmers had record-breaking values for many of their commodities,” Westra said.

The Ag Summary is a compilation of the numbers for more than 200 agricultural commodities grown and raised across Louisiana. The AgCenter prepares the Ag Summary annually – and has since 1979 – to gauge the status of the agricultural economy, which is one of the most important industries in value in the state, particularly in rural parishes, Westra said.

The largest contributors to the 2014 increase were forestry, beef and soybeans.

Forestry in Louisiana showed a significant increase in value of 34 percent over 2013, Westra said.

“The forest sector did very well,” he said. The total value of $3.86 billion in 2014 was an increase of $981 million over the previous year.

Market demand, led by housing starts, contributed to the increase in forest product values, he said. Total value is the delivered value from the forest plus the first-level processing from a log to raw lumber.

Value is for timber grown and harvested in Louisiana. “Forest products was the biggest gainer in absolute value in 2014,” Westra said.

Another area that showed improvement the past year was in the cattle and calf sector, which grew by $231 million to $895 million in 2014 – an increase of 35 percent.

Strong prices were bolstered by the lingering effects of drought in the Plains and West that held down cattle production in those areas while consumer demand remained strong, Westra said.

“Soybeans also did well,” Westra said. Value increased by $252 million or 28 percent to $1.16 billion in 2014.

Strong prices and record yields combined with a production increase from 1.1 million acres to 1.4 million acres contributed to the strong showing, he said. Average yield increased from 49 bushels per acre to 57 bushels per acre – a record per-acre yield for the state and the highest per-acre yield for the nation in 2014.

Louisiana growers planted more acres to soybeans than any other cultivated crop.

Production of feed grains – corn, oats and grain sorghum – was down significantly, and value fell by 57 percent to $396 million from $930 million in 2013.

“Acres and total value of feed grains were down primarily because prices were down early and producers switched from feed grains to soybeans, which didn’t see prices fall as significantly,” Westra said.

Corn went from 643,000 acres in 2013 to 395,000 acres in 2014, but yields were high. Acreage for grain sorghum and oats didn’t change much.

“The drop in acres reflects a drop in prices,” Westra said. “Those acres went to soybeans.”

The value of rice production was relatively flat, he said. Rice value dropped by $2.7 million to $656 million. Acres were up from 411,000 to 449,000, and yields were up at an average of 7,500 pounds per acre.

“Prices were down, and production was up, so total value remained about the same,” Westra said.

Growers planted more cotton – 162,000 acres, up 40,000 acres. Production value was up about 7 percent, he said.

Louisiana sweet potatoes gained value as a function of processed products. Frozen sweet potato products have replaced canneries as a major market in Louisiana.

“2014 saw a larger crop and higher prices,” Westra said. “Acreage increased by 1,200 acres, and farm income increased by 36 percent.”

The larger crop went both for processing and to an increasing fresh market.

Total value increased by $31 million to $117 million. “Better prices encouraged producers to increase acreage,” Westra said.

Sugarcane value slipped about 3 percent, or $24 million, to $747 million total, Westra said. Acreage was down about 5 percent from 439,000 acres to 412,000 acres.

The plant nursery sector grew 7.8 percent, mostly because of increased demand as the housing sector grew and landscapes were replanted following losses from an unusually cold winter.

The total value of plant commodities, including hay, fruit crops and vegetables, totaled $8.1 billion in 2014.

“Poultry is the biggest livestock enterprise in the state,” Westra said. But the value was down 14.5 percent, or $291 million, to $1.7 billion in 2014.

Egg income was down less than 5 percent while broiler production dropped from 912 million pounds to 872 million pounds, and gross farm value slipped from $927 million to $776 million.

All animal commodities, including dairy, horses and other animals, totaled $3.3 billion in 2014. Fisheries and wildlife, including aquaculture and marine fisheries, contributed $1.3 billion to the state’s economy.

“Livestock income is driven by the number of animals and feed costs,” Westra said. Throughout the country, animal numbers have been falling, and feed costs have been rising.

The Ag Summary statistics are compiled parish-by-parish by AgCenter extension agents and specialists. The total values reflect the value received by the farmer (farm gate) and the value when the commodity is sold at the next step in the process, which is called value-added.

The Ag Summary website has been redesigned this year to make it easier to check statistics and make comparisons, Westra said. Go to www.LSUAgCenter.com/agsummary.

“We think our clients will find this interactive website faster to use and more helpful,” Westra said. “We’ve included more graphics and made it easier to check by parish and by commodity.”

Rick Bogren

4/6/2015 8:15:57 PM
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