It's no secret that many farmers are facing tough economic circumstances, and while there are no easy solutions, LSU AgCenter economist Gerald Giesler says there are steps farmers can take to deal with the crisis they are facing.

The situation in Louisiana was created by major crop losses caused by Tropical Storm Allison, Hurricane Lili and the state's wettest October on record. LSU AgCenter estimates now peg the state's agricultural losses at more than $510 million.

“The weather turned Louisiana sugarcane fields into a quagmire — resulting in below-average sugar yields and excessive harvest costs,” Giesler explained, adding, “Excessive rainfall also caused considerable damage to both the soybean and cotton crops. And, worse yet, record low rice prices are impacting Louisiana rice farmers.”

The other Louisiana crops affected also include sweet potatoes, hay-forage-pastures, wheat and pecans.

“Many Louisiana farmers are feeling the strain, stress and uncertainty created by these conditions,” Giesler said, explaining the LSU AgCenter and its faculty are attempting to respond to the needs created by those conditions. “LSU AgCenter faculty have a long history of assisting Louisiana farm families.”

Since farm families began experiencing moderate to severe economic stress beginning in the early 1980s, AgCenter faculty have provided individual advice to more than 2,000 Louisiana farm families.

Those efforts will continue this year as the LSU AgCenter opens three FARM — Farm Analysis and Resource Management — offices in the state to help farmers make sound financial decisions. The three centers will operate from the AgCenter's Rice Research Station in Crowley, its Sugarcane Research Station at St. Gabriel and its Scott Research, Education and Extension Center at Winnsboro.

Based on his experience over the years, Giesler offers the following advice to Louisiana farmers who are experiencing financial difficulty:

  • Don't panic; this only adds to the problem. Remember the day-to-day operation of the farm and family must go on.
  • Establish an orderly process for assessing your current economic status. Make certain the reports include an income statement and a balance sheet. Use your accountant and/or bookkeeper.
    Prepare a comprehensive farm and financial plan for 2003.
  • Don't hesitate to seek help with your farm and financial plans or other decisions. Make use of all the available resources at your disposal. Some of these are your local farm financial consultant, LSU AgCenter county agents across the state and LSU AgCenter agricultural economists.
  • Use the USDA disaster and loan programs.

Tom Merrill is news editor for LSU AgCenter Communications (225-578-2263 or tmerrill@agcenter.lsu.edu).