By Don Molino
Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry Dr. Mike Strain is in Washington this week in his role as president of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture.
The organization has released its farm bill priorities and Strain says they’re working with several other organizations “as we move these farm bill programs forward.”
“Some of the things we’re focusing on,” said Strain, “include funding and coordinator of the evasive species program, especially in ways to prevent the introduction and spreading of plant diseases and pest that threaten US agriculture. That’s one of the things that has threated agriculture since the dawn of time.”
NASDA is also looking at animal diseases, specifically creating new resources and coordinated approaches especially to foreign animal diseases in order to protect US borders and us livestock.
The Specially Crop Block Grant program “for the smaller type crops like citrus” is also being raised to the forefront by NASDA.
“There is a strong, strong push to continue conservation, the key to the future of agriculture. Finding ways to increase productivity and at the same time create a better, cleaner and infinitely sustainable environment,” says Strain.
Another area being widely discussed by the various agriculture commissioners and secretaries is the Market Access Program and how it can increase trade “and increase our accessibility to foreign markets.”
One big push is also being made for increased extension and research.
“We have statistical evidence that shows for every public dollar invested in agriculture research, extension and education, returns $24 to the economy. It’s that critical,” says Strain. A lot of the research institutions—such as Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College—were created in and around the Civil War in order to increase production but also as an economic engine for the entire country. “Agriculture is the largest industry in the US and Louisiana.”
“We also need additional resources to help producers comply with the new Food Safety Modernization Act,” Strain pointed out.
The commissioner also said he strongly believes there needs to be a co-equal relationship with all the different federal agencies “as we move forward to implement new laws and as we continue working very hard to have a very strong personal relationship with all the top leaders here in Washington and across the US.”