Horticulturist and arboriculturist Jamie LaBranche is running for state agriculture and forestry commissioner in the Oct. 22 primary election.

LaBranche, a Democrat who lives in LaPlace, said he can create thousands of jobs and bring in billions of dollars in revenue through a medical agriculture program.

“Under my plan, Louisiana will be to the pharmaceutical industry as to what Silicon Valley is to the technological industry,” he said.

LaBranche said Louisiana has the right climate and soil structure to cultivate medical plants such as poppies, which is used to make morphine, codeine and other drugs.

He said thousands of acres at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola can be set aside to farm poppies in a secure location.

He said the crops could be isolated and harvested without the use of inmate labor, generating dollars that can be used for education, the elderly and infrastructure instead of for inmate care.

“In the industrialized world, the United States is the world’s largest consumer of prescription opioids such as morphine, codeine, plus a host of other medicines, and again the U.S. relies solely on foreign markets to supply such goods,” LaBranche said.

LaBranche also wants to abolish the fishing and hunting taxes for children, reinstate agricultural studies in the public school system and create a better marketplace for fishermen.

A Louisiana native, LaBranche said he grew up farming fruits and vegetables before pursuing a professional career in horticulture and arborculture. He said he is of Cajun descent.

“I understand the land, and its fullest potential,” LaBranche said. “I understand what it will take to make Louisiana the largest provider of medical agriculture in the nation bringing forth a new industry and needed source of revenue.”

LaBranche’s opponents are state Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry Mike Strain, a Republican, and Reform Party candidate Belinda “B” Alexandrenko, of Lafayette.