LSU AgCenter funding ‘stable’ for another year after special session

The LSU Ag Center’s 2016-17 budget will apparently be close to what the LSU Extension, research and teaching units received in 2015-16, members of the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation were told at their annual meeting in New Orleans.

Following a special session of the Louisiana Legislature that ended the night the Louisiana Farm Bureau annual meeting began (June 23), LSU Ag Center leaders seemed relieved the spending cuts they had expected did not seem as severe as anticipated.

“It’s been a roller coaster of budget scenarios for us,” said B. Rogers Leonard, associate vice president and program leader for plants, soils and agriculture water resources at the LSU Ag Center. “At one time we were looking at more than $2.5 million in cuts just for the LSU Ag Center.”

“We’re very hopeful that even though we won’t know the final number for several days our final appropriations will be closer to what we got last year, which would be a step in the right direction.”

Dr. Leonard was filling in for Bill Richardson, vice president for agriculture at LSU, who was participating in discussions with other groups about the possibility of producing medicinal marijuana in Louisiana, another action approved by the Legislative.

Describing the three legislative special sessions as “"difficult for higher education,” Dr. Leonard thanked Farm Bureau members who contacted their members of the Legislature and urged them not to cut funding for the Ag Center and its programs.

Agriculture is a $12-billion-a-year industry for Louisiana, he noted, which makes it imperative for the AgCenter to continue its research and Extension efforts to find solutions to issues confronting its farmers and ranchers.

“We also want to thank all of our legislators who helped support higher education, to mitigate some of the issues that we had,” he said. “We really want to thank you, the stakeholders. I know many of you received calls from Vice President Richardson, from county agents and every level in between to let folks know the value of the LSU AgCenter to Louisiana agriculture.”

With the cuts the AgCenter has received over the last eight years, he said, “It’s imperative that we in the AgCenter continue to look at downsizing our programs, projects and resources and really trying to do what you our stakeholders want us to do.”

The LSU AgCenter offered retirement incentives last fall that saved the funding for 40 positions. “Unfortunately, a lot of those were field positions, and many of our Extension agents are now doing double duty across parish lines,” Dr. Leonard said.

“In some instances, that is working very well, but, in some cases, some of you aren’t getting the touch from our county agents that you had in the past. We recognize that, and we hope we can work through it with some changes in our model. We continue to downsize and re-mission our research programs and units, focusing on those core missions that we have.”

Unless the AgCenter gets an influx of new dollars, he said, some of those activities will have to continue. “What we are not doing, and what we are focusing on are many of our core areas,” he said. “We will continue to support the core research, Extension and teaching positions across Louisiana.”

The first general session of the Louisiana Farm Bureau’s annual meeting featured three speakers with first-hand knowledge of the budget situation for Louisiana Agriculture.

For more information on the LSU Ag Center, visit www.LSUAgCenter.com.

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