State May Sell Plant Nurseries Shut Down by Budget Cuts

By Caitie Burkes and Carrie Grace Henderson, Manship News Service

The state is considering selling four four inactive plant nurseries.

The Beauregard Nursery in Beauregard Parish, the Oberlin Nursery in Allen Parish, and the Columbia Nursery in Caldwell Parish combine for a total of 248 acres. Also authorized for sale is the Kera Seed-Forest Seed Production Orchard in Newton County, Texas.

“We simply do not have enough money in the department for something that’s not funded,” Louisiana Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain said. “We’re asking permission to sell these properties to private industries so they can facilitate seedlings for the forest industry.”

At full operation, the nurseries supplied 15 percent to 18 percent of the seeds and seedlings for trees in Louisiana, but budget cuts stopped production, he said.

The four properties cost $50,000 in upkeep and insurance annually, Strain said. They were appraised for a combined value of $1.2 million. Upon sale, that money would be returned to the state general fund and not into the Department of Agriculture budget.

Paul Frey, former assistant commissioner and state forester, told the committee he was opposed to the sale of the land because of the potential research opportunities they could provide.

“When I retired in 2007, the state was utilizing one of those nurseries, and we developed salt tolerant Cypress trees,” Frey said. “There are some research opportunities with the LSU AgCenter and other universities looking at specific things related to coastal restoration.”

The Senate Natural Resources Committee voted unanimously Thursday to send the measure to the Senate floor.