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I-LEAD Explores Agriculture in the Bayou State

Posted on July 24, 2015 at 2:27 PM by Iowa Corn

Cane, crawfish, and some of the most delicious Cajun cooking… just a few things that come to mind when looking back at our I-LEAD Class’ recent visit to Louisiana.

In late June our class spent four days learning first-hand about the diverse agricultural production systems throughout the Bayou State. We kicked off our visit by sitting down with representatives of the Louisiana Farm Bureau and the LSU Ag Center. We learned that while they do plant some corn and soybeans, Louisiana’s four major crops consist of sugarcane, wheat, sweet potatoes, and rice. The group also learned about their Master Farmer Program, which has helped provide education and incentives for farmers to implement conservation practices on their farms. In true Cajun fashion, we ended the day with a delicious home-cooked meal of Etouffee at the home of a local sugarcane farmer.

Our second day was spent in the deep of Cajun country. First stop was an alligator farm, where we learned how they collect the eggs from nests in the marshes, hatch them in large incubators, and sell the young alligators to other farms where they are raised and ultimately sold to tanneries based on their hide quality.  During our next farm visit we learned about how they are able to double crop their fields by harvesting rice in the fall and then harvesting crawfish from the same field later that year.  The class was able to get a first-hand look at the production of sugar cane during our next farm visist, which is harvested just one row at a time, much of it with custom made equipment.  The day ended at Avery Island, where we enjoyed a VIP tour of the Tabasco factory.

Day three began with a tour of the Port of New Orleans, which is almost 300 years old, and the New Orleans Cold Storage & Warehouse Co. This particular cold storage facility handles approximately three million pounds of fresh chicken each day, which is flash frozen and loaded into refrigerated containers to be shipped overseas, with Africa being one of our largest growing markets.  Next stop was Zen-Noh Grain, a facility with a grain holding capacity of 4 million bushels and daily drying capacity of 100,000 bushels.  This facility receives most of its grain by barge, which is unloaded, tested, dried (if needed), and then loaded onto container ships for export. Most barges hold 60,000 bushels, which takes about 45 minutes to unload, whereas a Panamax container ship holds about 2.2 million bushels of grain and takes about 24 hours to load.  It was amazing to see the grain loading/unloading, some of which could have come from an Iowa farm field!

Last stop of the day was a Perque (specialty tobacco known for its strong, fruity armona) tobacco farm. The farmer explained how his family had been raising this tobacco for many generations, and while he has updated his drying barn many of the same labor intensive practices historically used to produce it (handling it at least 18 times from planting to curing) are still used today.

Our last day began with a presentation from the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association.  The representative shared that their industry provides 200,000 jobs in the state and helps to provide 9.2 million barrels of oil per day throughout the U.S. The group had an engaging discussing about the role of renewable fuels in our nationwide energy policy following the presentation. The final stop of our Louisiana tour was the Bollinger Shipyards.  The group was able to see the construction of U.S. Coast Guard ships from start to finish.  This stop was extra special to our group due to Michael Fritch’s family connection to ship #19, which is still in construction but will be named after a member of his family that died in the line of duty.

The food was delicious, the people were fantastic, the tours were informative, and the experience over all was amazing. On behalf of the entire I-LEAD class, thank you to everyone who had a hand in making this experience possible!

Elizabeth Burns-Thompson is currently the Government Relations Manager at Iowa Corn. Elizabeth was born and raised on a diversified family farm in eastern Iowa, where her parents still farm today. Elizabeth’s passion for agriculture led her to Iowa State University, where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Business and International Agriculture. Elizabeth also holds a Juris Doctorate degree from Drake Law School, specializing in agricultural law and policy. While Iowa has always been home, one of her favorite past-times is traveling, and over the years she has had the privilege of observing agricultural production in variety of countries around the world.

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