La ag economy has second record year in a row

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Louisiana’s agricultural economy had its second straight record year in 2013, bringing the state more than $11.8 billion, according to a report released Monday by the LSU AgCenter. That’s 3.5 percent more than in 2012, when the state broke a record set in 2007.

Good weather that helped farmers set numerous crop records, coupled with high corn and cattle prices last year had a lot to do with the record total, economist John Westra said.

One or two records a year is common, Westra said.

“But there were so many this year,” he said. “There were at least a dozen I’ve been able to count. That doesn’t count minor commodities like mayhaws and blueberries. For the major commodities to have done so well two years in a row is very unusual.”

Corn, soybeans, grain sorghum, cotton and rice all had record yields. Feed grains and soybeans set records for total value. So did the aggregate of all animal and livestock commodities and of all fisheries and wildlife. Westra also counted the total value of all commodities and two record lows, for acreage of cotton and sweet potatoes.

A spate of records is unlikely this year, Westra said. Reasons include falling prices for soybeans and corn and a wet early spring that could reduce corn planting.

Corn prices were high through early summer last year because a cool, wet spring in the corn belt brought worries that the crop might be small. As it turned out, there was a record national crop. Cattle prices are high because drought in other parts of the country, particularly the southern plains, forced ranchers to cut back. Louisiana’s herds, meanwhile, remained stable.

High beef cattle prices boosted that business - mostly cow-calf operations selling weanling calves to feedlots - from $448 million in 2011 to $561 million in 2012 and $663.3 million last year.

And, as people bought less red meat and more poultry, chicken and egg prices went up, Westra said. That meant that even though broiler production was stable and egg production down slightly in Louisiana, the business brought Louisiana $2 billion last year, up 6 percent from the 2012 record.

Poultry is Louisiana’s largest animal industry.

The AgCenter’s totals include gross value to farmers and the first level of processing in Louisiana. For instance, Westra said, that means turning sugarcane into brown sugar, but not to white sugar.

Forestry remained Louisiana’s top agribusiness, with three-quarters of the $2.9 billion total going to mills and other processors in Louisiana. Timberland owners got $720.8 million.

Those two sectors were followed by $930.3 million for feed grain crops, $908.8 million for soybeans, $770.7 million for sugarcane, $537 million for marine fisheries, $511.4 million for horses, and $444.2 million for aquaculture including alligators, crawfish and catfish.

Home gardens were worth about $249.6 million, the report estimated. That figure is based on U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates of the average number and value of home gardens nationwide, Westra said.

That puts home gardens above 23 of the 33 other crops and commodities listed, including cotton ($184.8 million), wheat ($125.9), commercial vegetables ($126 million) and hunting leases ($101.6 million).

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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