Many of our lakes are plagued with overgrowth like salvinia. Do you have any ideas on how to address the problem?
Managing the damage and threats of salvinia, which is actually a fern plant, is under the control of other executive departments, including, but not limited to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources.
What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the Department of Agriculture?
The biggest challenge facing the Department of Agriculture & Forestry is its current leadership. Bob Odom has been at the Department for 48 years. His method of political bullying and his indictments for public corruption have tarnished not only the dedicated employees of the Department, but Louisiana's image as well. Odom's image has hampered the ability of the Department to encourage new layers of processing and manufacturing of Louisiana-grown crops and stunted economic development.
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the agriculture industry in south Louisiana and the rebuilding of it continues. What plans do you have to help revitalize the agriculture industry in south Louisiana?
The agricultural industry in south Louisiana can be re-energized through several different initiatives. The Commissioner of Agriculture should be working to secure low-interest, emergency loans for farmers in distress through the Farm Bill in Congress. Also, I have a plan to spend millions of dollars in federal money on a "Farm to School" program that will bring fresh, local produce from local farmer into our local schools. As a result, our children eat healthier and our farmers experience significant economic growth. Several other states participate in this program and have purchased millions of pounds of in-state fresh produce for school children. We have the money, but currently, we aren't using it. Our kids should eat healthy.
Many crops are now being used to help meet the energy needs of our country. What are your thoughts on the growing roll agriculture is playing in this and what, if any, plans do you have for the state and its farmers on this?
Part of our national, though somewhat ambiguous, energy policy is the pursuit of alternative sources for fuel and energy. Wind and solar energy simply cannot meet the challenges. There have been significant advancements in the quest for cheaper, more effective ethanol and as one of America's leading agricultural states, Louisiana, with the right leadership, can be at the forefront of these developments. With ethanol the current focus is on corn, but there is evidence that sugar cane can offer similar returns and advantages in ethanol production. More research needs to be done before decisions are made, but the prospects of economic development for Louisiana are bright.