BATON, ROUGE, La. -- LSU AgCenter faculty and administrators in northeast Louisiana are actively seeking ideas, suggestions and opinions from farmers and agribusiness leaders about the current agricultural economic crisis.

"Our state underwent disastrous weather conditions during the fall that caused more than $500 million worth of damage statewide," said Bob Hutchinson, LSU AgCenter director for the nine parishes in the northeastern corner of the state. "These losses were on top of historic low prices."

A crisis in agriculture is particularly devastating to the northeastern parishes because they are so dependent on this industry, officials say.

"Louisiana farmers have to make their voices heard in Washington, D.C.," Hutchinson said. "Our county agents are prepared to take their ideas and help channel them to the policy makers who can make a difference."

State Rep. Francis Thompson of Delhi, La., chairman of the Louisiana House Agriculture and Forestry Committee, also has offered to help with this process, Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson would like to gather as much information as possible by Feb. 20. That way he can make the information available during the "2003 Agricultural Crisis Summit: Actions for the Future," a conference organized by the LSU AgCenter that will be held Feb. 26-27 in Baton Rouge.

"Several of our nation's top policy advisers will be speaking," Hutchinson said. "There will be the opportunity for farmers to meet in commodity groups to hammer out some plans for success."

For more information on the conference or to forward ideas, please contact county agents at the following parish offices: Caldwell, Jim McCann, (318) 649-2663; East Carroll, Glenn Dixon, (318) 559-1459; Franklin, Carol Pinnell-Alison or Gene Boquet, (318) 435-7551; Madison, Mike Rome (318) 574-2465; Morehouse, Terry Erwin, (318) 281-5742; Ouachita, Richard Letlow, (318) 323-2251; Richland, Keith Collins, (318) 728-3216; Tensas, Robert Goodson, (318 )766-3222; and West Carroll, Myrl Sistrunk, (318) 428-3571.

e-mail: Bob Hutchinson