BATON ROUGE, La. — From the fertile soils of its farmlands to waterways that are crucial to commerce, Louisiana’s natural resources are key to the success of agriculture — and those involved in the industry have a duty to protect them, Gov. John Bel Edwards told a luncheon crowd of farmers, scientists and others Jan. 31.
Speaking during the Conservation Systems Conferences cohosted in Baton Rouge by the LSU AgCenter and several other universities, Edwards said Louisiana has long been a leader in agricultural production and makes a valuable contribution to feeding a growing world population. It’s now more important than ever that people working in agriculture prioritize sustaining the state’s land and water resources, he said.
“Having been blessed like we’ve been blessed, we also have a special responsibility to be good stewards of that —and I know that you all do that,” he said.
Many presentations at the event focused on conservation topics such as wisely using inputs, promoting soil health and efficiently irrigating. Twenty researchers, five farmers and six certified crop advisers from Louisiana joined counterparts from other Southern states on the programs of the National Conservation Systems Cotton and Rice Conference, Southern Soybean and Corn Conference, Delta States Irrigation Conference and Southern Precision Ag Conference.
Edwards emphasized the economic value of agriculture. Louisiana’s 27,000 farms along with 15 million acres of forestlands make up a $11.6 billion industry, he said.
“You might have small farms out there, but collectively it is very big business,” he said.
He spoke about two issues affecting rural agricultural communities: access to broadband internet and the condition of roads and bridges. Significant funding is being invested into making improvements in both areas, the governor said, adding that the upgrades will benefit farmers.
“As important as it is growing a crop, you’ve got to be able to transport it,” he said.
Louisiana’s waterways and ports, which play a critical role in moving food and other agricultural goods around the world, are reaching impressive milestones, Edwards said.
“We will move from exporting 60% of the nation’s grain through Louisiana to 70% of the nation’s grain,” he said.
Edwards applauded farmers for their hard work amid recent adverse weather and economic conditions.
“I have some idea of the challenges that you face,” he said. “I milked cows at my daddy’s dairy barn in high school. Before that, I picked peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers and cabbage at some farms in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana, where I’m from. It seems like every time that you get better prices for whatever it is that you happen to be producing, the inputs also went up, whether it’s fuel or fertilizer. Or maybe if all of that’s going just right, Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate.”
He encouraged those in the audience to do their part to keep Louisiana’s agriculture industry strong.
“It’s very important to acknowledge that farming is a very time-honored way of life,” he said. “It’s honest work. It is treasured here in Louisiana and around the country.”
For more information about the event, go to www.nctd.net.