Are you for armed guards at schools?|
Story Archives: Thompson fighting proposed agriculture cuts
- 2013 - 285 articles
- 2012 - 856 articles
- 2011 - 635 articles
- 2010 - 1276 articles
- 2009 - 1591 articles
- 2008 - 1763 articles
|Thompson fighting proposed agriculture cuts|
Funding for the LSU AgCenter and the state Department of Agriculture will not face steep cuts to their budgets, if state Sen. Francis Thompson has his way.
"The largest industry in the state is still agriculture," said Thompson, D-Delhi. "We don't need to cut off our hand if that's the one that's doing the work."
Thompson is the chairman of the Senate agriculture committee and said he is working with Senate and House colleagues to restore millions in cuts to the agriculture department in an effort to save some of the 79 job cuts expected there.
Also, Thompson said he wanted to make sure higher education cuts do not affect vital LSU AgCenter operations around the state.
In singling out agriculture as the state's largest industry, Thompson also noted farmers bore the brunt of Hurricane Gustav last year.
"The farmers in northeast Louisiana lost more money than the people living on the coast where it came ashore," Thompson said. "There was more than a billion dollars in crop damage in northeast Louisiana last year."
Despite the losses last year, Thompson said the agriculture department has been singled out for a massive budget cut and loss of jobs.
Among those jobs, a number of state forestry service workers and fire prevention officers will be handed walking papers.
For Thompson, such a step makes little sense.
"Why would you eliminate fire protection when we have one of the largest timber industries in the South?" Thompson said.
Another program Thompson will fight to continue funding is the state's boll weevil eradication program.
Though boll weevils have been "virtually eradicated" according to published reports, Thompson said there still exists the possibility for resurgence if Louisiana doesn't follow through.
"This is a program we've been in for many, many years," Thompson said. "If we don't finish that program, then all the money we've invested in previous years would have been for nothing."
Thompson said he has encouraged Senate colleagues to embrace tapping the state's rainy day fund to shore up education and healthcare -- and to infuse needed cash into strapped agriculture and economic development programs.
Without such a move, Thompson feared Louisiana could be left out in the cold with federal stimulus programs.
"I don't think the federal government will provide help to states that have a significant fund that hasn't been tapped into," Thompson said.
Thompson called the economic outlook for the next few years bleak and said Louisiana's efforts in Washington might best served by using part of the rainy day fund.
"Our main dilemma is we are sitting on a billion in a rainy day fund that we're trying to decide whether or not to use," Thompson said. "Is it best to deal with our needs this year and next year and make the cuts now or deal with a draconian cut next year?"
Thompson has proposed tapping the fund for some $300 million, with $100 million going to higher education, another $100 million to health care, and the remaining dollars split between agriculture and economic development.
"That puts us in a competitive position," Thompson said. "Otherwise, none of those will be in a competitive position and will be losing staff."
Thompson is not the only legislator calling for tapping the fund and, earlier this week, Gov. Bobby Jindal said he would support using a portion of the rainy day fund to shore up college funding.
As the Legislature enters the middle stretch of the 2009 session, however, and Thompson pointed to a near future in the state that was less than rosy, with more cuts on the horizon for 2010 and 2011.
"The economy is not expected to turn around until next year, based on the best data," Thompson said. "So we could be facing a similar budget deficit next year, where sales tax collection, income tax revenues and corporate taxes are down."
|Frank Morris Murder Series|