By Avery Davidson, Louisiana Farm Bureau News
NEW ORLEANS—Louisiana’s farmers, ranchers and rural residents are discussing the future of the state’s agriculture at a time of great uncertainty.
As they are meeting at the New Orleans Marriott on Canal St., the men and women who represent them are meeting at the U.S. and Louisiana State Capitols.
“This is a critical time,” said Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation President Ronnie Anderson.
The Louisiana Legislature is currently in the middle of its third special session of the year to fill a more than $600 million gap in funding for the already approved state budget. Many of the cuts would impact the Louisiana State University and Southern University Ag Centers, as well as the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry.
“We need to know what that will be like going forward from July 1,” Anderson said. July 1 is when the state’s fiscal year begins.
In Washington, D.C., the Senate and House of Representatives have each advanced versions of the 2018 Farm Bill out of their respective agriculture committees. The House is set to vote on its version that includes provisions which would give cotton farmers some security. The vote comes after an earlier failure by the House to pass similar legislation.
“That could very well happen this coming week while we're in New Orleans for convention,” Anderson said. “We want to see that Farm Bill passed and moved so that we'll have some certainty.”
Prior to taking up the 2018 Farm Bill, House members are expected to vote on immigration reform. Not only is the issue critical to labor-intensive agriculture, but it is one of the snags that has held up the Farm Bill this year in the House. Immigration reform will likely dominate discussion at the annual Labor and Environmental Conference set for the morning of Friday, June 22.
“Farm labor is of utmost importance to Louisiana agriculture,” Anderson added. “Our sugar, crawfish and fresh produce industries rely heavily on the H-2A and H-2B visa programs to get temporary workers from other countries when local workers are not available.”
The 96th Annual Meeting of the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation wraps up on Sunday, June 24. U.S. Congressman Ralph Abraham, MD, who represents Louisiana’s fifth district, is scheduled to speak at Sunday’s session of voting delegates from across the state. Those voting delegates will propose and set policy to guide the Louisiana Farm Bureau in its mission as the Voice of Louisiana Agriculture.
More than 1,000 Louisiana Farm Bureau members and their families are in New Orleans for the 96th Annual Meeting.
Founded in 1922, the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation is the state’s largest general farm organization representing more than 140,000 member families.