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Crop consultants honor LSU staff

The Louisiana Agricultural Consultants Association honored two LSU AgCenter employees at the LACA convention held in Alexandria, La.

Miles Brashier was awarded the organization’s County Agent Award, and Roger Leonard was chosen for the Louisiana Agriculture Hall of Fame.

Denise Wright, LACA director, said selections for the county agent award and hall of fame are not made every year. “We do it when someone is deserving of it,” she said.

Brashier, who serves as county agent and parish chair in Pointe Coupee Parish, works with producers of grain crops, commercial horticulture and cotton, as well as helping individuals with lawns and gardens. In addition, he works with Master Gardeners and on the parish mosquito control program.

“Miles is extremely dedicated to the crop and livestock producers in Pointe Coupee Parish,” Harold Lambert wrote in his nomination.

Leonard, the Jack Hamilton Chair of Cotton Production at the LSU AgCenter’s Macon Ridge Research Station, who completed his doctoral studies in entomology in 1990 from LSU, was recently named the LSU AgCenter’s cotton specialist.

“Roger’s insect pest management research has had a major positive impact on the profitability and environmental sustainability of row crop production across the southern United States,” said Robert Hutchison, director of the LSU AgCenter’s Northeast Region. “It is a tremendous compliment to Roger’s research and outreach programs to be recognized in this way by the private crop consultants of our state.”

LSU AgCenter chancellor Bill Richardson said Leonard is recognized for his expertise. “I don’t know of any young man who has established himself nationally and internationally at as young an age as Roger,” Richardson said.

Josh Temple of Zachary, La., a doctoral student under Leonard’s direction, received a 2009 LACA graduate student scholarship. Nicole Ward of Lettsworth, La., working on her doctorate with LSU AgCenter plant pathologist Ray Schneider, and LSU undergraduate agronomy student Stephen Simoneaux of Belle Rose, La., also received scholarships.

The convention held sessions for various crops grown in Louisiana.

With the talk of low cotton prices and decreased acreage, farmers expect they will grow less cotton this year.

Edward Greer, a Richland Parish cotton farmer, grew up on a cotton farm, and his son now grows cotton. He said he may grow 1,000 acres of cotton this year, twice as much as he did in 2008.

Greer said the 2008 hurricanes demolished his crop, cutting production to only 760 pounds an acre. “It was heartbreaking,” he said.

Greer said the boll weevil has been eradicated and tobacco budworms are under control, and 1,000 pounds per acre is a realistic possibility. But he said Louisiana farmers are growing less cotton, and gins continue to close.

“I don’t believe we will ever see cotton where it was 20, 15 or even 10 years ago,” he said. “But I really believe we will see an increase in cotton acreage in the next five years.”

Farmer Dan Logan of Gilliam, La., said he thought eradication of the boll weevil would have resulted in increased cotton acreage. But when infrastructure moved overseas to process cotton, the decline began, he said.

“There is nothing wrong with cotton that good prices cannot cure,” Logan said. “Don’t give up on cotton yet.”

Will McCarty, retired Mississippi State University cotton specialist, said cotton is a part of the region’s culture that would suffer if the crop went away. “I contend you cannot afford not to grow it,” McCarty said.

He said cotton is needed to provide a variety of crops farmers can choose among.

Mississippi growers harvested 360,000 acres of cotton last year, and that figure could drop by 60,000 acres, McCarty said. In three years, the state lost 1 million acres of cotton.

“That’s $200 million in the local economy that’s not turning over,” he said.

Joe Townsend, a Mississippi cotton consultant, said the U.S. cotton crop was the smallest in a century. U.S. growers are at a trade disadvantage because the governments of India and China are paying their growers in excess of market prices, Townsend said.

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