Legislators oppose budget cuts to AgCenter

LAFAYETTE – State Rep. Jack Montoucet of Duson, speaking at a Louisiana Farm Bureau dinner March 18, defended the LSU AgCenter as it faces a possible $13.3 million budget cut for the upcoming fiscal year.

“They provide such an important service to the farming community. It scares me to hear the cuts,” Montoucet said.

Montoucet said the farming economy is the economic engine of his district, which includes parts of Acadia and Lafayette parishes.

Montoucet said cuts already made to the LSU AgCenter have been severe, but proposed cuts would be devastating. “We need to save them, and we definitely don’t need all the cuts.”

He said the LSU AgCenter would be crippled with the proposed cuts, making future recovery difficult.

Dr. Paul Coreil, LSU AgCenter vice chancellor for extension, who attended the event, said he was heartened by Montoucet’s concerns.

“I couldn’t have said it any better than Representative Montoucet,” Coreil said. “It’s obvious he understands our situation, and we feel confident many of his colleagues agree with him.”

The proposed $13.3 million budget reduction represents 15 percent of the LSU AgCenter budget. A 4.4-percent budget cut was imposed in January. Unlike LSU campuses, the AgCenter has no tuition that can be used to raise funds to cover a budgetary crisis.

Farm bureau lobbyist Joe Mapes said cuts to the LSU AgCenter would hurt the entire state. He said a budget reduction in the state’s should not impair the AgCenter’s capabilities. “We’re looking to hold what we’ve got.”

State Sen. Nick Gautreaux of Abbeville said farmers are the key to developing biomass products for alternative energy production.

Rice farmer Jeff Durand, president of the Louisiana Rice Growers Association, said efforts continue to improve rice-loading facilities at the Port of Lake Charles. He said the improvements could be used for several grain products, not just rice.

Durand said the port will be used to load 50,000 tons of a 120,000-ton purchase of U.S. rice by Iraq.

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