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.
Since the hurricanes, my staff and I have been working with USDA and our Congressional Delegation to secure emergency funding for our farmers, ranchers and forest landowners. This funding is a major factor in the rebuilding efforts of our agricultural and forestry industries. The Department of Agriculture and Forestry is currently serving as the administrator for emergency relief funds for catfish farmers, but this funding can only go so far in its ability to repair what the storms destroyed. If our family farms are to continue to survive, they must diversify. In order to survive today, a family farm must produce its crop for: 1) food & fiber 2) fuel 3) elctricti(cogeneration). With that in mind, I make it my duty to meet with investors and researchers who can open new markets for our agricultural and forestry commodities. I plan to continue this promotion of our industry when I am re-elected. We cannot control Mother Nature and world markets, but we can look at alternative avenues for using our crops. Major advancements are being made in biofuels and our farmers deserve to be involved in the production of ethanol and biodiesel made from their crops. I have toured facilities using the latest production methods and have spoken to many private businessmen and women who want to produce these fuels in our state. My number one comment to them is - allow the farmers to be involved as a partner in the facility. It is this type of diversification that will help continue and further the rebuilding of our agricultural and forest industries.