BATON ROUGE, La. — Two Agriculture, Business & Community Forums are being held this month to connect local leaders with resources and insights from federal agencies, regional economic organizations and Louisiana universities to address recovery and resiliency planning in the wake of major flooding in 2016. The first of the two ABC Forums was held Wednesday in Lafayette at the Louisiana Immersive Technologies Enterprise, or LITE, Center. The second forum will be held in Ruston on Tuesday, Jan. 31 at the Davison Athletics Complex at Louisiana Tech University.
The primary purpose of these events is to share some of the opportunities and support services developed by Louisiana Economic Development’s Community Competitiveness & Small Business Services team, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Joining them are state, regional and local leaders representing agricultural, business and community interests. In Lafayette, a variety of panels addressed several topics, including available recovery assistance for small businesses, agriculture recovery by way of higher-value specialty crops, and opportunities to connect businesses with state and federal contracts to focus on recovery-based initiatives. Similar topics will be addressed at the forum in Ruston scheduled for Jan. 31. The forums also include opportunities to discuss a new comprehensive framework for community resiliency for future emergency events.
“Louisiana Economic Development remains committed to ensuring that our business and agricultural communities not only successfully recover from last year’s torrential floods, but also that they are well-prepared in the future,” said LED Secretary Don Pierson. “Collaboration with our partners on the federal, regional and local levels ensures that we are fully aware of the unique challenges brought on by these floods, and it provides us with the opportunity to prepare the necessary strategies and resources to address future challenges.”
Presentations at the Lafayette ABC Forum included an introduction to and review of FEMA’s National & State Disaster Recovery Frameworks; a panel discussion on agriculture, which included representatives of USDA Rural Development, Louisiana USDA Farm Service Agency and the LSU AgCenter; a panel discussion on specialty crops and food hubs, which included representatives from the Central Louisiana Economic Development Alliance and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette; a presentation on cultural tourism by the Acadiana Planning Commission; a community luncheon featuring the USDA Stronger Economies Together Program and LED’s Louisiana Development Ready Communities Program on community capacity and long-term recovery planning; and a small business assistance panel discussion with representatives of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Louisiana Small Business Development Centers, the National Incident Management Systems and Advanced Technologies Institute at UL Lafayette, and the Louisiana Procurement Technical Center, along with a presentation on state and federal contracting opportunities.
“Economics drives the recovery,” said Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator Wayne Rickard of FEMA. “But it takes time to reverse the economic and environmental impact from the great floods of 2016.”
Seats are still available for the ABC Forum in Ruston. To register for the event, visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/agriculture-business-community-abc-forum-north-tickets-30698199140
“We are currently awaiting $10 million in federal dollars which was allocated by Congress to assist farmers with non-insured losses from the 2016 floods,” said state Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain. “Our Louisiana Agricultural Finance Authority will administer the funds to affected farmers. We will also continue to work with the Office of Community Development as we did after Hurricanes Gustav and Ike in 2008.”
The ABC Forum in Ruston will feature the same presentations, with corresponding representatives from Louisiana Tech University and the Louisiana Tech College of Applied and Natural Sciences; the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry; the Southern University AgCenter; the Morehouse Economic Development Corporation; the Northwest Louisiana Food Bank; the Northeast Louisiana Economic Alliance; the U.S. Department of Commerce; and the Northwest Louisiana Procurement Technical Assistance Center.
"These forums are designed to promote recovery and resiliency in the economic recovery of devastated areas in Louisiana,” said Lee Jones, acting state director for USDA Rural Development. “One thing that makes this easy is the resiliency of the Louisiana spirit. USDA Rural Development wants to use the programs we offer to tap into that resilient spirit and create opportunities for prosperity in affected areas."