Agriculture was worth $10.7 billion to Louisiana’s economy last year, according to numbers from the LSU AgCenter’s 2011 Ag Summary. This was up seven percent from 2010, which represents a strong improvement in production in Louisiana over the past few years.

“The $10.7 billion in total value was the first time since 2007 that we have more than $10 billion in total value of agriculture production in Louisiana,” said John Westra, LSU AgCenter economist.

Despite an unusual production year in 2011 with drought and flooding, row crops including feed grains, sugarcane, cotton, wheat and soybeans gained significant value last year.

“Those commodities alone accounted for more than $700 million in additional income in total value to the state of Louisiana,” Westra said.

Commodities such as corn, sorghum and soybeans had reductions in yields, but total acreage was up. Sugarcane and rice saw record-setting yields. Cotton yields also improved over the previous year.

Also up were commodity prices. Feed grain prices were up 50 percent; soybeans, 23 percent; sugarcane, 21 percent; wheat, 31 percent; and cotton, eight percent.

“When you combine stronger commodity prices with higher production, you get a high farm gate value.”

Rice was one major commodity that saw losses in 2011. The value of rice was down $59 million or 11 percent. While farmers had record-setting yields and prices were up, there was a significant decline in acreage -- 120,000 acres.

“We were at about 537,000 acres in 2010 and down to 417,000 in 2011,” Westra said.

Fisheries numbers, which lag a year behind because of the way they are reported, saw a slight decline in some areas. But, overall, the numbers in 2010, the year of the BP oil spill, remained unchanged from 2009 with a value $956 million.

“Surprisingly, much of the marine fisheries were not too greatly affected,” Westra said, adding that the fin fish and shrimp catches were down about five to 10 percent.

“The major reduction was on the oyster harvest, which isn’t surprising with the closing of many oyster reefs.” Westra added that oyster harvests were down by about 50 percent.

Aquaculture production, which includes farm-raised crawfish, increased by $27 million or 16 percent in 2011.

Animal production also remained relatively unchanged at $2.65 billion.

The drought hurt the beef cattle sector because much of Louisiana’s production is pasture-based, and producers couldn’t harvest as much hay in affected areas of the state.

“Pastures performed poorly last year, so producers had to purchase hay or purchase feed. This increased the cost of production.” 

But this loss was offset by strong beef prices.

While poultry production saw big gains in 2010, the industry had a slight decline of one percent, or $20 million, in 2011.

The value of forestry, Louisiana’s most valuable agricultural industry, was down $87 million. Westra said while that sounds like a lot, it represents only a three percent decline in forestry’s $3 billion value. The forestry sector was down significantly in 2008 and 2009, but has since seen some recovery.

“Part of that reflects some improvement in the housing sector.”

Westra said, overall, 2011 was a good year for Louisiana agriculture, and he is optimistic about the agricultural outlook in 2012.

Prices aren’t as high as they were last year, but they remain strong. Intended acreage also looks good.

“We’re expecting most row crops to stay at their current levels.” The one exception is cotton acreage, which will like decline slightly this year.

Westra compiles the Ag Summary, which has been done every year since 1978, from reports prepared by AgCenter Extension agents across the state. For all the Ag Summary numbers, see here.