Unfavorable weather and increased costs didn’t stop Louisiana agriculture from contributing billions to the state’s economy in 2008.

Commodities in the animal, forestry, fisheries, plant and wildlife industries racked up more than $5.3 billion at the farm gate and “value added” in excess of $4.1 billion — for a total economic contribution of nearly $9.5 billion in 2008.

Officials say those totals posted in the LSU AgCenter’s Louisiana Summary of Agriculture and Natural Resources probably would have been higher if not for unfavorable weather conditions during the planting season early in 2008, higher production costs that chipped away at the potential profits for some crops and damage caused by hurricanes Gustav and Ike later in the year.

“The 2008 production year for the food and fiber sector of the state started with as much optimism as has been experienced in several years,” said Paul Coreil, vice chancellor of the LSU AgCenter and director of its Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service.

“Two years removed from hurricanes Katrina and Rita, agricultural production in the state had essentially completed its long road to recovery from the immediate and lingering effects of the storms.

“This optimism was fairly short-lived as sharp increases in many input prices quickly eroded projected profit margins for producers. To top that off we had less-than-ideal weather that hampered some commodities at the beginning of the year and then hurricanes Gustav and Ike hit the state and drastically reduced the yields of many crops right before the harvest season.”

Such setbacks turned what could have been a record-setting year for Louisiana agricultural values into one where overall totals decreased below even those seen in 2005 — the year hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck the state.

Overall totals for agriculture’s economic contributions to Louisiana’s economy dipped from $10.7 billion in 2004 to $9.7 billion in 2005 but then rebounded to $10.4 billion in 2006 and $10.9 billion in 2007, making the 2008 total of just under $9.5 billion the lowest recorded for the past five years.

That doesn’t mean agriculture isn’t important to the state’s economy, LSU AgCenter officials stress, saying agricultural industries continue to contribute significantly to the state’s economy and have potential for increased benefits through value-added processing.

“Although farm-gate values and levels for value added for specific commodities may have changed noticeably from past years because of lower output caused by the hurricanes, lower commodity prices or significant changes in acreages, the food and fiber sector continues to be vital to the state’s economy,” said Bill Richardson, chancellor of the LSU AgCenter.

“Cutting-edge research and Extension education and outreach efforts remain critical to sustaining these significant economic benefits.”

Plant commodities continued to lead the state’s agricultural products in 2008, with farm-gate values totaling more than $3.2 billion and value added of nearly $3 billion for an overall economic contribution of more than $6.2 billion.

Forestry led the plant commodities with an overall contribution of nearly $3.3 billion followed at a distance by sugarcane at $602 million; rice, $551 million; feed grains, $449 million; and soybeans, $340 million.

Animal production contributed $1.5 billion in farm-gate value and another $779 million in value added for a total $2.3 billion in 2008. Much of that overall contribution came from the state’s poultry industry, which contributed nearly $1.2 billion of the total. Other major contributors were horses at $567 million in total economic value, cattle and calves with $381 million and milk at $180 million.

Fisheries and wildlife segments rounded out the state’s agricultural industries with nearly $943 million in total contributions to the economy — $562 million in gross value and $381 million in value added. The bulk of those economic totals came from marine fisheries at $454 million and aquaculture at $356 million.

The Louisiana Summary of Agriculture and Natural Resources is published each year based on data gathered and analyzed by agents and specialists in the LSU AgCenter. The complete edition is available on the Web at www.lsuagcenter.com/agsummary, and a limited number of printed copies are available to the public, as well as being supplied to some libraries and other reference locations across the state.

For more details on the summary, contact John Westra in the LSU AgCenter’s Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness at (225) 578-2721 or jwestra@agcenter.lsu.edu.