“We can no longer do everything we’ve done in the past, but we remain committed to agriculture in this state,” Richardson said.
Despite some of the cuts, one of the programs that will be expanded is the Master Farmer Program, which provides education on environmental stewardship to farmers. The program will be revised so more farmers can be certified as Master Farmers more quickly.
In the case of rice farmers, this status will gain them price incentives for the rice they sell to the Kellogg Co. for its cereal products.
“More companies are becoming committed to sustainability in farming because consumers are demanding this,” Richardson said.
He said the AgCenter is celebrating 125 years of the Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station in 2012. In the past year, he has had to close three of the off-campus research stations that are part of this system because of budget cuts. But there are no immediate plans to close more.
He said the AgCenter is committed to maintaining extension offices in all 64 parishes. He said all these parishes are now paying a greater share of the costs for keeping these offices open.
The AgCenter has joined in the social media movement and is beginning to deliver educational information via “apps” on mobile Web devices, such as smart phones, Richardson said.
“We’re about ready to introduce Rice Scout, which is an app that rice farmers can use to get the latest information about growing rice wherever they are at any time of day,” he said. “We will soon be coming out with more apps.”