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This publication presents the value of Louisiana agriculture in 2011. Agents and specialists of the LSU AgCenter’s Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service, as well as other public and private agencies, compiled the data. Their analysis focuses on the animal, forestry, fisheries, plant and wildlife commodities that comprise our vital agricultural industry. Agricultural and natural resource industries contribute significantly to our state’s economy and carry with them the potential for increased economic benefits and job creation through value-added processing in urban and rural communities throughout Louisiana.
During the 2011 production year, growing conditions were about as diverse as any producers had experienced before. Early in the growing season, many areas of the state were dealing with flooding and excess moisture associated with flooding along the Mississippi River, including the Morganza Spillway that the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers opened during the spring. During part of the same growing season, however, producers in some of the flooded areas and other areas of the state also experienced drought conditions that persisted for much of the growing and harvest seasons. The dry conditions hampered producers for most of the year and caused reduced yields and increased production costs. But, on a somewhat positive note, those dry conditions continued into late summer and fall and created nearly ideal harvest conditions for most commodities. This helped increase harvest efficiency and reduce harvest costs for most producers.
While early flooding certainly affected the crops of many producers, the drought conditions that persisted for much of the year had the biggest effect on the state’s agricultural industry. As with most instances of adverse weather conditions, yield and production reductions were experienced. But the biggest consequences of the 2011 drought were increased production costs. Although increased irrigation helped to limit the effects on yields, it sharply increased production costs, particularly as fuel and other energy costs increased through the summer. In addition, a lack of forage forced many cattle producers to sell cattle at reduced weights or increase their production costs by increasing feed purchased to supplement low forage levels. Unfortunately, since grain prices were at record highs throughout most of 2011, this was not a financially viable option for some livestock producers. In extreme cases, producers were forced to liquidate portions of their cow herd.
Despite the difficult production environment, the total gross farm-gate value for the agricultural industry was $6.1 billion in 2011, up by more then 10 percent from the previous year. Plant enterprises experienced the largest increase – with farmgate values increasing from $3.3 billion in 2010 to $3.8 billion in 2011, a 17 percent increase. Stronger commodity prices and larger acreage for many commodities helped to offset any yield reductions that resulted from drought conditions. In fact, due to increased irrigation and optimal harvest conditions, the majority of the plant enterprises reported yields for 2011 that were at or above the 2010 levels. The only major plant enterprises that had significant yield reductions or declines in total production in 2011 were hay, corn, soybeans and grain sorghum. In each instance, however, increased acreage in 2011 offset the adverse effects from reduced yield on gross farm-gate value. Of the plant enterprises, only rice and forestry had significant gross farm-gate reductions from 2010. The reduction in rice was primarily a function of significantly lower acreage planted in 2011, while the reduction in forestry was a function of lower production in response to continued pressure on prices related to the slowdown in the economy.
The gross farm-gate values of both the animal enterprises and fisheries and wildlife enterprises were mostly unchanged in 2011, with each experiencing less than a 1 percent change from 2010 values. Increases in beef cattle and dairy were mostly offset by decreases in horses and poultry. So animal enterprises were up less than 1 percent to $1.69 billion in 2011. Increased cattle sales due to drought conditions and significantly sharper prices for cattle and milk helped pushed gross farm gate value for both above 2010 levels. Reductions in total poultry production in response to slightly weaker prices in 2011 left poultry’s gross farm value slightly lower than 2010 levels. For fisheries and wildlife commodities, reductions in marine fisheries based on lower landings helped to offset the continued expansion of the aquaculture sector and, in particular, crawfish production. The total gross farm-gate value for the fisheries and wildlife enterprises was reported at $569 million, down less than 1 percent from the previous year.
With the increased production experienced in many of the agricultural sectors in 2011, “value added” activities associated with agricultural production also increased in 2011. When those commodities were cleaned, processed and packaged, the value added brought in another $4.6 billion, up by 3.5 percent from 2010. Taken together with farm-gate values, value-added activities helped to generate a $10.7 billion contribution to the Louisiana economy in 2011. This represents a 7 percent increase from 2010 levels and shows that the agricultural industry continues to be a significant contributor to the state’s economy even in years when drought and other adverse conditions create hardships for agricultural producers. Cutting-edge research programs and extension education and outreach efforts remain critical to sustaining these significant economic benefits.
Many Louisiana communities depend on agriculture, forestry, fisheries and wildlife for local jobs and their economic well-being. The heart of agronomic agriculture is found in northeastern, southwestern and south central Louisiana. Forestry production occurs mostly in the state’s hill parishes, and fisheries production takes place mostly along the coast, although aquacultural production of catfish is located mainly in the northeast Louisiana delta area.
For those who work in it day in and day out, agriculture, forestry and fisheries are far more than a business, a major job contributor and an economic engine. It truly is a way of life. Families have lived on many of these farms, forestlands or fishing villages for generations – following a preferred way of life even though it means hard work, many hours and high risks that sometimes still result in low incomes.
Each new production season has risks associated with commodity prices, trade agreements and higher input costs, as well as uncertainty related to the weather. These conditions make the discovery and adoption of new agricultural technology developed by the LSU AgCenter more important than ever to our state’s producers.
Agriculture is a highly sophisticated segment of the national and world economy and it becomes increasingly more so every year. That is the reason we at the LSU AgCenter continue to support agriculture and consumers with factual information provided by a well-trained faculty of extension agents, specialists and research scientists.
Those of us in the LSU AgCenter (with its major branches of the Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service and the Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station) are proud to be part of Louisiana’s agricultural and natural resource industries, and we are committed to serving those industries and the citizens across the state of Louisiana in the years ahead.
LSU AgCenter, "2011 Louisiana Summary: Agriculture and Natural Resources" (2011). Louisiana Summary: Agriculture and Natural Resources. 9.