Two LSU AgCenter researchers recently received more than $87,000 in grants from the USDA to support economic opportunities for agricultural producers and businesses.

Matt Fannin, an associate professor in the LSU AgCenter Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness, was awarded $56,815 for investigating the economics of cotton transportation from production fields to cotton gins.

Pam Hodson, a professor in AgCenter Communications, received $30,511 to survey school lunch directors in pilot parishes to determine the demand for locally produced agricultural and fishery products.

Fannin’s two-year project will identify cost savings associated with alternative cotton harvest and transportation options and identify optimal ownership of new technology to improve efficiency in the marketing supply chain for cotton in the Mid-South.

Over the past several years the number of cotton gins has decreased significantly in Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee and Missouri. At the same time, the remaining gins have adopted new technology and increased capacity.

In researching the farm-to-gin distance in those states, Fannin said, it appears that distance is not as constraining as once thought. “Gins have capacity and will go to get cotton. The industry has had major technical changes in on-board harvest module technology that produces cotton bales on the go, much like a bale of hay.”

Fannin is looking at the effects of transportation flexibility and labor for ginners and is looking at the portion of the supply chain from the cotton picker to the gin.

Hodson’s program will assess the capacity of local farmers and fishermen to fulfill the demand and train local producers on the use of Louisiana MarketMaker, an online marketing system, and other resources that will help producers identify new marketing opportunities.

“I will be working with AgCenter agents in selected areas to survey school lunch directors in pilot parishes to determine demand for locally produced agricultural and fishery products and identify the policies for purchasing products for use in school lunch programs,” Hodson said.

Sea Grant agents and LSU AgCenter faculty also will assess the capacity of local farmers and fishermen to fulfill the school food service demand through survey information. And producers will receive training on the use of Louisiana MarketMaker and other resources that will help them identify new institutional and direct marketing opportunities.

The grant is in cooperation with the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, Crescent City Farmers Markets, Louisiana State University Sea Grant programs and Orleans Parish Firstline Schools.

Under the Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program, USDA is matching $1.3 million of grants to state departments of agriculture, state agricultural experiment stations, and other appropriate state agencies to assist in exploring new market opportunities for U.S. food and agricultural products and to encourage research and innovation aimed at improving the marketing system.