In a year dominated by sobering economic news, the health of Louisiana’s farm economy was a bright spot in 2012.

That’s the news from LSU Ag Center Chancellor Bill Richardson, who recently assessed the year in state agriculture in a meeting with Advocate reporters and editors.

“If a farmer didn’t make money last year, he needs to look at his business plan,” Richardson said. Many factors helped the bottom line of Louisiana farmers, making the road to profitability much easier, Richardson said.

Yields for corn, soybeans, rice, cotton and grain sorghum all set records, according to Ag Center assessments. While drought in other parts of the country kept prices high for many commodities, Louisiana farmers were spared drought conditions, which allowed them to greatly benefit from a seller’s market for many farm goods.

“Prices have moderated, but they are expected to remain strong in 2013,” the Ag Center noted in a media advisory.

The general outlook for 2013 remains largely positive for Louisiana farmers, Richardson noted. More cotton farmers are expected to convert acreage to corn and soybean farming because of better prices. Meanwhile, rice farmers face lower prices in 2012 and higher expenses, perhaps prompting some farmers in north Louisiana to switch from rice to corn or soybeans, too.

The year 2012 was a good year for Louisiana sugar cane farmers, as well, according to the Ag Center’s year-end report. Ag Center sugar cane specialist Kenneth Gravois said that sugar recovery yields are the second highest on record. While the weather stayed dry for most of the harvest, rain in December slightly slowed harvesting. Sugar prices dropped in 2012 from the previous year, but crop prospects for 2013 are good because the dry 2012 harvest has set the stage for a good new crop.

We’re glad that Louisiana farmers had a largely successful year. Agriculture is an important part of the state’s economy, and given the world’s growing demand for food, Louisiana farmers will continue to play a role in the economy of the state — and the economies of places around the globe.