The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization declared that 2014 is the International Year of Family Farming. Over the course of the next year, Louisiana Eats! will periodically profile local family farms to find out how their family farms impact our community.
Dozens of pecan growers across Louisiana met at the LSU AgCenter Pecan Research Station in Shreveport earlier this month to discuss how proposed federal regulations could impact their operations. State pecan specialist Charlie Graham said the Food Safety Modernization Act will bring about more stringent guidelines that will be harder for small farmers to implement and adhere to.
A $4 million freshwater diversion project will pump water from the Red River into depleted Red Bayou, offering farmers along the nine-mile-long waterway in northwest Louisiana summertime relief for their fields.
Water is most needed in the last months of the growing season, when as much as half of the bayou's channel is dry. Farmers currently use wells for nearly all irrigation.
By next summer, river water will pour into the bayou, providing irrigation for cotton, corn and soybeans.
The meeting will be held at the Hilton Lafayette Hotel on Pinhook Road.
Speakers will include Jack Roney, director of economics and policy analysis for the American Sugar Alliance, and Jim Wiesemeyer, vice president of Informa Economics, a commodity, food industry and agribusiness consulting firm.
Heavy rains in southwest Louisiana are flooding land and keeping some farmers out of the fields.
Calcasieu Parish County Agent Jimmy Meaux tells The American Press that although sugar cane harvesting is through in most areas, rice and soybean farmers are being kept from preparing their fields for the planting season.
Most farmers spend January and February getting fields in shape for spring planting, which can begin as early as March, he said.
As rain followed rain in south Louisiana, the president of the Louisiana Crawfish Farmers Association saw a good chunk of his crop swim over the levees around his ponds while fish swam in to feast on those remaining.
David Savoy of Church Point says rains since last week have overtopped the levees in about 35 percent of his 1,700 acres of ponds. But he says those are his most low-lying ponds, which also tend to be the most productive.
North Louisiana farmers and timber growers say they're beginning to recover from drought in 2010 and 2011. But The Times of Shreveport reports it will take time to rebuild cattle herds and that trees stressed by the drought could continue to die for another two years.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture declared 36 Louisiana parishes drought disaster areas in 2010. In 2011, seven parishes were named drought disaster areas along with 213 Texas counties.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture says Louisiana's harvests this year include record yields for at least five crops — corn, soybeans, cotton, grain sorghum and rice. Sugarcane is still being harvested, but could be near a record.
Economist Kurt Guidry says reasons include more irrigation, better crop varieties and luck with the weather.
Rice expert John Saichuk cautions that a rice disease called blast may have cut the harvest below the federal estimate of 6,500 pounds per acre. And AgCenter surveys put the record yield at last year's 6,717 pounds per acre.