The State of Louisiana has made an investment in northeast Louisiana and committed $50 million dollars of taxpayer money to preserve agricultural jobs that support a large-scale poultry operation in Farmerville.

Some question the wisdom of this investment and that's natural. $50 million is a lot of money.

But wouldn't the same people who are objecting to this plan want their leaders to do everything they could to keep Exxon in Baton Rouge, Barksdale Air Force Base in Shreveport, NASA in New Orleans and Conoco-Philips in Lake Charles?

State Farm and International Paper have already left the Monroe area. Could we really afford to let the poultry industry leave northeast Louisiana?

Louisiana agri-businesses generate more than $28 billion in food and fiber products and services to the state's economy. The value-added from the food and fiber sectors amount to more than $9.1 billion to our economy.

I cannot overstate the critical function the family farm plays in creating economic security for our nation. Yet farmers continue to produce despite the unprecedented financial risks they undertake each year to provide the nation and the world with safe food and renewable energy.

In 2007, 243,000 Louisiana workers earned more than $4.5 billion from the food and fiber sectors. More than 9 percent of our workers are employed in agriculture. In this time of economic uncertainty, we must not destabilize any segment of the economy, let alone one that directly employs nearly 10 percent of Louisiana's population.

With a gross farm value of $884 million for poultry products in 2007, poultry production is Louisiana's leading animal enterprise. Factor in the value-added products from poultry to the state economy and the total value of poultry production to Louisiana is $1.733 billion.

Not only does the poultry industry contribute to the rural economic stability of Louisiana but the business is also a significant economic driver in our urban communities. New Orleans is one of the largest exporters of poultry in the United States and receives significant revenues from poultry. In 2008, the Port of New Orleans exported 253,138 tons of frozen poultry.

The United Nations Population Division estimates that for the first time ever in the history of the world, the global urban population has outstripped the rural one. This means there is a greater pressure on U.S. farmers to increase production to feed urban dwellers.

At the same time, Louisiana's rural communities face significant challenges to improve their local economies while producing food and fiber for our families. According to the LSU AgCenter, approximately 55 percent of Louisiana parishes are considered non-metropolitan or rural. These parishes contribute more than $31 billion to our overall economy and 15 percent of the state's gross domestic product.

The production of agricultural commodities affects the economy of every parish of the state. We must always remember that the preservation of our farm economy is not only a matter of economic development but also our national security.

Mike Strain, D.V.M.
Commissioner
Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry