Wednesday, April 8, 2020

"Sticking to Our Roots" by State Vice President Tristan Foret

April Blog

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.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

"Small Decisions, Big Impacts" by State Treasurer Victoria Higdon

March Blog

What is the best decision you ever made? For me, it’s usually the one with a grand accomplishment at the end of the story that shows exactly how successful I was. But in truth, my best decisions are not always ones that reach the grand spotlight.
For example, agreeing to do a public speaking contest was one such decision. In the beginning, I was absolutely terrified. At the first contest, I could barely even look the other competitors in the face because my nerves were getting to me. Yet I decided I was going to learn my speech, research the topic, and practice for hours until I got it down. Joining my school’s cross-country team was another. I wasn’t the fastest runner or the most motivated. However, I decided I was going to do all my workouts, run without stopping and beat my mile time. My next big decision was to put in my application to run for a state office, but my mind was filled with self-doubt. What experience or skill could I possibly bring to the table? Why would they choose me? But I had decided I was going to give my best long before I filled out that application.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get caught up in the other candidates’ accomplishments. They were area officers, state winners, and proficiency award finalists. How could I compare? I forgot the accomplishments I made because I didn’t believe them to be as grand as everyone else’s. I soon realized that no title would make my impacts any more or less meaningful, but instead the care and work I put into them. My best decision was never giving up on the small things, that in turn made up the big things.
If I had quit doing public speaking, I couldn’t expect myself to give great speeches. If I never finished a race, then I couldn’t expect myself to get up early in the mornings and give my all in everything I did that day. If I neglected the needs of my chapter, there was no way I would be able to be there for my state. If I ignored every opportunity for success because I “didn’t feel like it” or “didn’t want to”, what makes me think I would ever be there for myself or be successful in my future career? Since I gave my all at the small tasks, I don’t struggle for the big tasks.
Being a state officer does not mean you start making a difference. It means you continue making the difference that you’ve already started to make. For those of you considering running for an area or state office- if you have a genuine love, mindset, and work ethic for the FFA, our members, and agricultural education, you will always be enough to be a leader. Being a member now means you can make your own impacts that will serve you and your community regardless of what stage you’re at in your FFA career. In return, those impacts will positively follow you for a long time. Louisiana FFA, I encourage you to go out there and start making those best decisions!

Thursday, February 6, 2020

"Change Through Biotechnology" by State Vice President Trevor Touchet

February Blog

What is biotechnology? Biotechnology—an area of agricultural science involving the use of scientific tools and techniques, including genetic engineering, molecular markers, molecular diagnostics, vaccines, and tissue culture, to modify living organisms: plants, animals, and microorganisms. It’s obvious that without biotechnology, agriculture wouldn’t be what it is today. Let’s take a trip down memory lane to a time before biotechnology. We have grown a lot since the beginning of farming. For example, we have developed GMOs, various vaccines for animals, and pest resistant crops to aid in producing enough food to feed our growing world. With the world’s population expecting to reach 9.7 billion by the year 2050, biotechnology plays a huge role in accomplishing this goal by helping to increase crop yield.

Biotechnology is vital to agriculture. It allows farmers to grow more food on less land while using farming practices that are more environmentally sustainable. With the use of biotechnology, farmers yield more per acre, plants resist specific insects and pests, and farming techniques can be used to improve soil conservation. Farmers and ranchers can help plants and animals fight diseases and adapt to environmental stress and climate change. We can enhance the nutritional content of foods and improve human health through plant and animal produced therapies. There are so many more benefits of biotechnology and it will play a huge role in farming for years to come.

Biotechnology provides farmers with tools that can make production cheaper and more manageable. For example, some biotechnology crops can be engineered to tolerate specific herbicides, which makes weed control simpler and more efficient. Other crops have been engineered to be resistant to specific plant diseases and pests, which can make pest control more reliable and effective which could also help decrease the use of synthetic pesticides. In addition to genetically engineered crops, biotechnology has helped make other improvements in agriculture not involving plants. Examples of such advances include improvements in antibiotic production  and producing new animal vaccines, such as foot & mouth disease and rabies. As you can see biotechnology not only plays a major role in the future of our crops, but it also has huge importance in strengthening our animals as well.

All in all, biotechnology is of grave importance for the future of our nation and the world. Without it, feeding the world in the future might not be possible, but biotechnology can only do so much.  World population is expected to double within the next few decades, meaning that food and crop production must be able to meet the rising demand. With new advancements everyday, biotechnology has already done so much to change how we currently feed the world. Imagine what it will be in 20 years! However, these advancements would not be possible without aspiring agriculturalists like yourself.  So, I challenge YOU all to be those that we need to make the change you want to see in the world!

Saturday, January 4, 2020

"What Makes Me Who I Am" by State Sentinel Lindsey Detraz

January Blog

It is the most underestimated time of the year again, calving season. When passing a cattle pasture most may think “look at all the cute little babies” or “that poor cow must be taking a nap”. For cattle farmers and livestock showers this is a much different ball game. Those calves are a brand new bag of ear tags, and that momma cow taking a nap turns into a dreaded 2am distress call. It may sound like a hassle, but for us, the party is just getting started. The next few months consist of pasture checks, vaccinating, weaning, culling, and--my favorite part--shopping for the next grand champion show project. 

We always hear the basic things that livestock projects give to youth showmen; like responsibility, work ethic, showmanship, etc. Although these are all amazingly true, we never talk about the aspects that make a showman. Growing up surrounded by cattle, it seemed like every weekend we were working them, fixing fence, or moving them to more level ground for a storm coming. Those weekends soon turned into every day and night spent in the barn working with my animals prepping for the upcoming show. To my classmates this was a silly, stinky hobby, but to me it was not only a lifestyle but my future.  

After 7 years of showing, my parish’s cattlewomen’s president Ms. Tweety Trahan approached me with what seemed like the most ridiculous question. She asked me to be Vermilion Parish’s Cattlemen’s Queen. My head spun for weeks thinking about how could a little country bumpkin like me be a beauty queen. After a lot of thinking, I finally gave in to her request and every day I am beyond grateful I did. At first, it was completely terrifying going through interviews, talking in front of people, and being the face of our parish’s cattle industry. I soon realized having this crown on my head may have made me look different, but even without it on I was the same person. I soon became a role model for the kids at the show barn, and the one they came to for advice inside and outside the show ring. It was not long that I realized what my cows have given me, it was not a crown or local fame, they gave me so much more than I ever could recognize. 

Even though my reign of being Vermilion Cattlemen’s Queen had ended, I knew I was not finished advocating for the industry that has changed my life and many others. Of course, FFA was a big part of my life through all of this, but I now recognized this as a chance to bring recognition to the cattle industry and those alike that go unnoticed. As a result, I made it a point to compete in the public speaking LDEs, not to win, but to learn more about and acknowledge these industries and what they have done for people like me. I never thought that crown and that blue jacket would have taken me so far. Check out how this little country cow-loving bumpkin has achieved the impossible feat of talking in front of thousands of members and making a difference, and now you are reading her blog! So the next time you see that momma cow “taking a nap” in your buddy’s pasture, make sure to give them a call, that could be the start to their future.