"Sticking to Our Roots" by State Vice President Tristan Foret
When people think of the agricultural industry across the United States, mental pictures of tractors cultivating an Iowa corn crop or a rancher riding through a herd of cattle across the plains of Oklahoma come to mind. This is the face of American agriculture and defines what stereotypical farming is made of, but oftentimes we forget about the smaller, more specialized operations that are embedded in the most unique corners of America. Here in Louisiana, we are blessed to house an industry developed for generations with rich ties to the Southern Louisiana Roots. Aquaculture is an industry producing essential Louisiana commodities comprising the production of shellfish, fish and aquatic plants.
Louisiana is home to the production of alligators, baitfish, catfish, crawfish, oysters, and shrimp. This is one of the many hidden gems that lie within the economic impact that agriculture has on the Louisiana economy. According to the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation’s Ag in the Classroom Program, the total gross farm value in the state of Louisiana for alligator, marine fisheries, crawfish, oysters and rice is $954,433,761! Our state proudly makes up twenty-five percent of the nation's production of shellfish.
One of the most versatile economic benefits of aquaculture is its ability to be grown as a secondary crop for supplemental income in large scale, commercial operations. Rice, a semi-aquatic commodity, can also be grown in conjunction with crawfish as a combined income for the local farmer. While the rice is harvested as a source of food for local consumers, its stems and by-products also create an essential food supply for the crustations also occupying the ponds. This allows our aquaculturist to work efficiently and create a healthy crop in both rice and crawfish when used within the same fields. Practices like these allow producers to create a higher financial yield per acre and use them in a dual-purpose setting.
We are currently serving as the model for American aquaculture and strong representative of such a vital industry that has developed over generations, keeping the gulf-coast citizens employed. These practices were once used as the primary source of nutrition for the first Acadianians brought to south Louisiana in efforts to survive off of the land that they were given, due to the efforts to develop the lands of the recent Louisiana Purchase in the early 1800’s. These original Cajuns began to use the resources that were provided by the land in efforts to survive, and little did they know, the critters they would eat out of desperation would eventually become a staple in Louisiana cuisine and a delicacy across the nation. It is noted that approximately seventy-seven percent of the state’s visitors are drawn to the deep south in hopes to get the opportunity to try its world-renowned, locally produced seafood.
When thinking about the scope of Louisiana agriculture and economy, it's essential to recognize the specialty markets that we are immersed in and leading. Our state has a special agricultural production layout and we have the ability to stand out among others. What we have in south Louisiana is a market completely unique to us that could not survive anywhere else. It has been developed through ancestral practices and is now the backbone of the state's largest tourist attractions. As FFA members, it's our time to advocate for our local industries and raise awareness that we are unique, we are proud, and we are sticking to our roots.