(02/04/20) Baton Rouge, La. — Sugarcane fields dot the landscape of Assumption Parish. For 140 years, the company formed by the Dugas and LeBlanc families has been farming some of those fields and processing the sugar retrieved from them.
Chris Mattingly, chief executive officer of the families’ Lula-Westfield Sugar Factories, said the families’ success and longevity in the industry is fueled by variety development research conducted at the LSU AgCenter Sugar Research Station.
“We couldn’t be in business or nearly where we are without this research,” Mattingly said.
The families have created the Dugas & LeBlanc Sugar Research Station Support Fund to help the station hire student workers, graduate assistants or other workers who can assist with the labor needed in developing and testing new sugarcane varieties.
Mattingly said the economy of Assumption Parish relies heavily on the sugarcane industry because the rural parish doesn’t have the petrochemical industry like neighboring river parishes.
He also said sugarcane is unique because it doesn’t have big agriscience companies conducting research and variety development like for other commodities such as corn, cotton and soybeans.
“We rely heavily on the research from the station. We need this research, and it’s on our shoulders to support it,” he said.
Farmers in Assumption Parish and in other sugarcane-growing areas are producing more sugar on fewer acres than when Mattingly joined the family business in the late 1970s. He said this is a direct result of better varieties.
Mattingly serves as chair of the American Sugar Cane League variety development committee. He said through that work he sees the tremendous effort that goes into developing sugarcane varieties and the significant amount of labor it requires.
He said he hopes this gift can help ease the budget constraints at the station and be a benefit to the research there.
AgCenter sugarcane specialist Kenneth Gravois said the gift will further strengthen variety development at the Sugar Research Station.
“Sugarcane variety development is the core mission of the LSU AgCenter’s Sugar Research Station. The Dugas and LeBlanc families have long recognized this contribution and how it affects their farming and raw sugar factory operations,” he said.
The Dugas & LeBlanc board of directors includes chairman Charles “Chip” Savoie Jr., Jamelia Dugas, Scott J. LeBlanc, Wilfred Daigle, Lonnie LeBlanc Jr., Georges E. LeBlanc III, Charles LeBlanc Jr., Jon A. “Tony” Savoie Jr., Robert Savoie and Chris D. Mattingly.
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture