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Spring: The Promise of a New Crop - Farm & Ranch May 2015 - 5/7/2015 -

Danile WebsterSpring: The Promise of a New Crop

By Jim Simon

American statesman Daniel Webster (1782-1852) once famously said, "When tillage begins, other arts follow. The farmers therefore are the founders of human civilization.”

That’s certainly eloquent and just as true now as it was in the 19th century as it was in ancient times.
I imagine in days past agriculture seemed to travel at a slower pace than it does now. Putting a spring planting in the ground for a fall harvest still meant the field had to be prepared ahead of time just as it does today. I suppose the 40-acre farm was about as large as one family could handle. Every task was slowly accomplished by hand and mules one day at a time. Everyone on the family farm had a role to play in the farm’s profitably and the prosperity of the greater community surrounding the farm. It took a lot more people to do a month’s work that one man and a tractor can do today in a 12-hour period.

That’s why I say agricultural endeavors of the past only seemed to have been unhurried. Farmers were just as busy then as they are today. Because of their work, paths became roads, villages became towns and ideas became technological and artistic achievements.

Agriculture is vital to Louisiana’s economy. In 2012, agriculture’s contribution to our economy was more than $4.5 billion. Louisiana has more than 28,000 farms and 2.9 million acres of farmland. The average Louisiana farm is 281 acres. More than 24,800 farms are smaller than 500 acres, 1,323 farms are between 500-1000 acres, and 1,926 farms are comprised of more than a thousand acres. In a state with a population of 4.6 million, only .6 percent of us are contributing to our basic food needs. (Source: USDA 2012 Census of Agriculture)
Incidentally, Louisiana’s sugarcane industry contributed about $747 million of that number. Our 475 farmers harvested 12.7 million tons on more than 380,000 acres which produced 1.5 million tons of raw sugar.
The next time you’re stuck behind a slow-moving timber truck on a narrow north Louisiana road or complaining about the smell from a poultry farm or sugar mill, remember the people who make sure the rest of us have enough to eat; remember the people who grow the fiber that makes the clothes we wear on our back. Remember the farmers, the founders of human civilization.

Mike DannaMike Danna Remembered

As many of you Farm and Ranch readers already know, Mike Danna, host of This Week in Louisiana Agriculture (TWILA), passed away March 6. He was 54. Mike came to agricultural journalism in 1985 from the Monroe News-Star-World to become editor of the Louisiana Farm Bureau News.

Mike was passionate about telling the story of Louisiana agriculture and he and his staff covered agricultural news from 15 countries on four continents and broadcasted or reported farm news stories from 27 U.S. states. Under Mike’s guidance, TWILA’s reach expanded past the local level to one that is now watched each week by more than 400,000 viewers on 19 affiliate stations across Louisiana. TWILA is also seen across the nation via satellite on RFD-TV, the farm news network.

Mike battled the cancer that would eventually take his life for three years with courage and optimism. It was difficult but he lived his life as fully as ever during his illness. He was elated to learn just days before his death that he had been inducted into the LSU Manship School of Mass Communications Hall of Fame.

Mike’s family would like to establish an LSU scholarship in his name. The American Sugar Cane League has made a donation and I invite everyone to help establish Mike’s scholarship.

Donations can be made online at or via check payable to LSU Foundation, in memory of Mike Danna in the notation line and mailed to LSU Foundation, 3838 West Lakeshore Drive, Baton Rouge, La. 70808 or to Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge,

Mike made a career of telling Louisiana’s agricultural story. He will be missed by all of his friends in the sugarcane industry.

(The above article appeared in Louisiana Farm and Ranch, May 2015).


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