Louisiana farms, fisheries and timberlands contributed $12.7 billion to the state’s economy in 2014, a gain of more than 7 percent over the previous year, according to figures compiled by LSU. That’s a welcome piece of news for a state that continues to heavily rely on farming to advance its fortunes.
LSU Agricultural Center economist John Westra recently told the Press Club of Baton Rouge that agriculture’s contributions to the state’s economy have grown for five consecutive years. That includes a gain of 34 percent in timber and forestry products.
While timberlands are more extensive in north Louisiana, they reach down into the Florida Parishes and the Baton Rouge area, as well. The value of nearly $4 billion in 2014 represented an increase of $981 million over the previous year. Those numbers represent rising demand for building materials, not only in Louisiana but across the nation.
Amid the many ups and downs of a long recovery from the financial crash of 2008, the housing market is one that has been as volatile as any. In Louisiana, it’s heartening that the state’s more robust housing markets — Baton Rouge and Lafayette, but also the New Orleans region — continue to be positive contributors to the economy. In Lafayette, where a plunge in oil prices has had a noticeable impact, housing prices have held up. In Acadiana, layoffs in oilfield services companies could hurt the area’s so-far solid record of growth.
Not just national but international markets are at play in the growing and selling of many Louisiana commodities. One thing that can help push these positive trends along is continued, if not substantially higher, state investment in agricultural research. The AgCenter has done a strong job under Chancellor Bill Richardson of generating earnings from the sale of its discoveries. That process warrants continued state investment.
The AgCenter’s research generates higher productivity on the farm. And that’s good for the state’s overall economy, each and every year.