BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana’s Master Farmer legislation has been cited as a good example for the entire nation and will be included in the 2005 Suggested State Legislation published by the Council of State Governments.
The legislation provides for state certification of those who complete the Louisiana Master Farmer educational program coordinated by the LSU AgCenter. It was authored by state Rep. Francis Thompson of Delhi, La., and passed unanimously by the Louisiana Legislature in 2003.
But the legislation is just one piece in a comprehensive effort.
The Master Farmer program, developed by the LSU AgCenter and sponsored by the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation, is an environmental education program designed to help farmers and ranchers identify and adopt best management practices to improve water quality in lakes, streams and bayous. It involves classroom instruction, involvement in field days and implementation of farm specific conservation plans — all in an effort to maximize productivity while minimizing any environmental impacts.
“Very few acts are considered for inclusion, and even fewer are actually selected by the Council,” said LSU AgCenter Vice Chancellor Paul Coreil. “We see this latest recognition of the Louisiana Master Farmer Program as just one more example of its success.
“We know we have a great thing going here. It’s good to see other people recognize that, too.”
Louisiana’s Master Farmer program was the first statewide effort of its kind in the country. But many other states — including Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas, Florida and California — already have expressed interest in forming similar efforts.
The program is designed to show the proactive steps farmers have taken in environmental stewardship, to expand their knowledge in that area and to encourage them to continue such actions, according to Carrie Mendoza, who coordinates the Master Farmer program for the LSU AgCenter.
“The beauty and the unique parts of this program are in the partnerships,” Mendoza said. “We have a comprehensive multi-agency program that is proving valuable in educating farmers about the environment.”
In addition to the LSU AgCenter and Farm Bureau, other agencies involved include the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, the Louisiana Association of Conservation Districts, the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and others.
The legislation, which created a certification system for Master Farmers in the state, was chosen as a model for other states from more than 90 that were considered by a national committee of state legislators.
It will be included in the 2005 Suggested State Legislation volume, which will be published later this year. That publication from the Council of State Governments, a non-profit, bipartisan organization that provides critical information to state officials about public policy trends, highlights recent, innovative legislation from one state that may be useful to others.
To date, more than 1,600 producers representing 1 million acres of Louisiana land have enrolled in the Master Farmer program. Its success also has led to additional commodity-specific programs in the state, such as the Master Cattle Producer program.
Tom Merrill is News Editor for LSU AgCenter Communications. (225–578–5896 or [email protected])