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Louisiana Legislature, agriculture facing more budget woes

"If you start adding taxes and taking away credits that have been developed over a long period of time; if you start taking away exemptions that we depend on to still be profitable, the price of food will go up."

That may be an unusual approach for a legislator to take, but it appears to have resonated with his fellow lawmakers, according to Sen. Brett Allain, R-Jeanerette, La., a sugar cane producer and businessman, who spoke at the Louisiana Farm Bureau annual convention in New Orleans.

Louisiana isn't the only state dealing with budget issues in its Legislature, but the LSU AgCenter, the organization that provides Extension outreach, research and teaching for Louisiana's $12-billion agriculture sector, had faced severe cuts for the last several years. At one point last spring AgCenter officials were faced with the loss of $2.1 million in funding.

"The price of food will have to go up because banks are not going to let us stay in business if we're not making money," said Allain. "The price of food will have to go up, and that will hurt the most vulnerable of the population in the state of Louisiana. That resonated with every Democrat and Republican. They understood that, and that's the message we're going to have to carry forward -- that those things are in place for a reason."

Allain said legislators don't understand the business of agriculture. "I've been in this business all my life, and I understand it. So we have to educate them. What I'm telling you is we're going to need your help, or we're going to get run over. Either we will be at the table, testifying and telling them what our needs and wants are, or we're going to be on the menu." 

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