La. forestry group hears update from LSU AgCenter

(02/18/16) BATON ROUGE, La. – The LSU AgCenter is facing serious budget constraints unless the legislature comes up with significant funding, AgCenter officials told the executive committee of the Louisiana Forestry Association Feb. 16.

“We need your help to educate new legislators on the importance of agriculture and forestry in Louisiana,” said Rogers Leonard, AgCenter associate vice president. “Please let them know the value of the AgCenter to your industry in Louisiana.”

The AgCenter has seen $23 million budget cut in the past five years along with more than $12 million reallocated to meet state-mandated personnel requirements, said LSU Vice President for Agriculture Bill Richardson.

“We need to support agriculture,” Richardson said. “It’s the No. 1 industry in the state.”

The upcoming budget is “going to be a challenge for all of us,” Richardson said, noting the AgCenter is 65 percent funded by state appropriations with the balance coming from federal programs and contracts.

Any significant cuts will reduce parish programs, Richardson said. “The AgCenter is at a turning point with people in the parishes.”

The AgCenter has more than 400 fewer people than five years ago, and more than 20 percent of parishes are sharing agriculture agents, Leonard said.

The AgCenter has closed one research station and another will have a new mission by the end of the month. Three more are under review. In addition, academic departments on the Baton Rouge campus have been consolidated to reduce costs, Richardson said.

During the meeting, Buck Vandersteen, Louisiana Forestry Association executive director, introduced several AgCenter faculty members and agents whose work supports the forestry industry in Louisiana.

AgCenter economist Shawn Tanger is working with the association to evaluate potential results of new tax proposals from the legislature during the special session and regular session. Forestry agent Brian Chandler announced the schedule of forestry forums that will be held around the state in March.

2/18/2016 4:04:43 PM
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