In Louisiana, we are blessed with abundant water and fertile soil that support a diverse and thriving agricultural industry. Louisiana's farmers and ranchers make significant contributions to our state, and generated $10.7 billion in economic activity and employed more than 20,000 people in 2011 alone. Louisiana produces a variety of crops including sugar, cotton, rice, soybeans, sweet potatoes, strawberries and more. Senator Landrieu understands how important agriculture is to our state, and will continue to be a staunch supporter of this vital industry.
Agriculture, along with energy, is the backbone of Louisiana's economy, and the Farm Bill is the backbone of agriculture, not only for Louisiana but for the entire nation. As the Senate worked to reauthorize the Farm Bill during summer 2012, Senator Landrieu successfully fought back efforts to eliminate adjustments made to U.S. sugar policy in the 2008 farm bill. She will continue to fight for Louisiana farmers as the reauthorization process continues, ensuring our agriculture industry has the policies in place to help it thrive in the years to come.
As the Senate works toward reauthorization of the Farm Bill, Senator Landrieu will fight for the provisions that are most important to Louisiana farmers, allowing our agriculture industry to thrive in the years to come.
Senator Landrieu was a proud supporter of the 2008 Farm Bill, which was packed with provisions that have specifically benefitted Louisiana's farmers. It is essential that Louisiana farmers have a strong safety net, which is why Senator Landrieu opposed cuts to farm payments that would have negatively impacted our state's corn, cotton, rice and soybean farmers. In addition, Senator Landrieu was able to secure, for the first time in 25 years, a loan rate increase for our sugar farmers. Senator Landrieu also supported provisions to extend the MILC program until 2012 and worked to secure language helping Louisiana's sweet potatoes farmers.
Unfortunately, Louisiana is prone to many natural disasters that wreak havoc on Louisiana's agriculture production. For example, Hurricanes Gustav and Ike caused over $1 billion in lost revenue to Louisiana's agriculture sector. Senator Landrieu introduced legislation to provide $720 million in disaster assistance to farmers to help them recover from the devastation, and was successful in getting this legislation included in the economic recovery package.
Senator Landrieu supports opening trade relations with Cuba. Given the state's proximity to Cuba, and our substantial ports, Cuba serves as a virtually untapped market that could bolster Louisiana's economy. Louisiana's rice farmers would be one of the biggest beneficiaries of expanded trade with Cuba, as Cuba was the U.S.' top rice export market before the 1962 embargo. It is estimated that Louisiana could contribute 480,000 metric tons to Cuba, which is 14 percent more rice than Louisiana is currently selling.