The ongoing state budget crisis has forced policymakers to scrutinize the importance and contributions of state-supported programs.
Two items of utmost importance to the state are 1) the fire fighting capabilities through the La. Dept. of Ag and Forestry (LDAF) and 2) the services offered through the LSU AgCenter.
Half of our state is forested and when wildfires take hold, it is dozers and forestry firefighters who stop the blaze. This department has already suffered a 34% cut (including 52 fewer firefighters in the last three years) and the current budget has removed ALL of the maintenance funds for the aircraft. Look at the 2 million acres burned in Texas (and 700 homes destroyed) or the fires of Arizona and you see what could happen here too.
The LSU AgCenter, with a presence in every parish in the state, conducts agricultural, forestry, natural resource, food and nutrition, and human health research and extension programs for all citizens of the state.
The LSU AgCenter's research and extension programs are instrumental in supporting all of the state's $10 billion food and fiber industries, including Louisiana's forestry industry, which accounted for $3.1 billion in economic contributions last year. Forestry is Louisiana's No. 1 agricultural commodity and a significant employer in our state.
Even during major weather events, like the hurricanes of 2005, the AgCenter was there helping people with advice and knowledge to protect themselves and others with the recovery.
These two programs are worth public support and public dollars. The LDAF and the AgCenter earn ever dollar they receive from the state. Let's hope the Legislature and Administration find room in the budget to continue funding these two necessary programs.
C.A. "Buck" Vandersteen
Louisiana Forestry Association