Covering Louisiana

Jul 28, 2014 5:34 PM by AP

Ag commissioner seeks preservation of La. farmland

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Louisiana's top agriculture official said Monday he's concerned about the drop in acres of farmland in the state, even as the demand for agricultural production increases.

Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain said 15,000 acres of farmland in Calcasieu and St. Charles parishes have been lost in the past year to wetlands mitigation projects.

In St. Charles Parish, landowners were paid to turn farmland over to expand levee protection. In Calcasieu Parish, Strain said the landowners were paid to convert farmland into wetlands by industrial construction projects that are required to enhance or restore wetlands as a trade-off when their plants will have an environmental impact.

"These issues of mitigation now are gobbling up farmland across the United States," Strain told the Press Club of Baton Rouge.

Strain said he's talking to federal officials and members of Louisiana's congressional delegation about ways to encourage sustainable farmland preservation when considering mitigation projects.

He said the country needs to keep its agricultural lands intact to meet the future projected food demand.

"Every acre is precious," Strain said. "We cannot afford to lose anymore, at all."

Agriculture is an $11.8 billion industry in Louisiana, with 7.9 million acres in production according to the most recent survey cited by the commissioner.

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