Agricultural profitability is cardinal to the state of Louisiana because the state’s economy remains heavily dependent on income from farm production and agricultural processing enterprises. Louisiana has a diverse agricultural economy. Therefore, a many-sided, dynamic research program is needed to deal with crops, livestock, and natural resource issues. The average farm size in the state is 268 acres. However, farms vary in size from large commercial operations to small scale enterprises.
Slightly more than 60 percent of the state’s 30,000 farms reported annual sales below $20,000 in 2009. By definition, these farms are classified as small farms. The small farmers face the greatest challenge of generating sufficient income to provide adequately for a family. Considerable variation exists in the profitability and management expertise of farm and agribusiness firms, particularly among small farms and small agribusiness firms. Critical agricultural issues characterizing small farms are: 1) limited operating capital; and 2) lack of adequate technical expertise, including management 3) access to competitive markets.
Current research in animal production systems emphasizes the agricultural issues of small-scale producers. Many small producers in the state of Louisiana raise beef cattle and swine for sale, and maintain some poultry for home consumption. A growing number of small-scale farmers are beginning to rear rabbits and goats as alternative sources of both food and income. Therefore, information from research on these enterprises is needed about production practices, market alternatives, and food nutritional values. Also, small-scale farmers who are switching from agronomic crops to horticultural crops need information from research. These farmers have identified the information they need though surveys.
Currently, a significant portion of the public prefers to buy organically grown vegetables and fruits, and meat, eggs, cheese, milk that come from pastured animals. Therefore, the Southern Ag Center orientates its research and information toward organic crop production and pastured animals.
The overall goal of the plant and animal production systems research program is to generate empirical information that will enhance economic opportunity and quality of life among small-agricultural producers in the state of Louisiana.