Louisiana’s agriculture and seafood industries will soon have a new Web portal with which to push their wares. It’s called MarketMaker and should be up and operational on the Internet in early 2010.
During a presentation to the Baton Rouge Press Club recently, LSU AgCenter Vice Chancellor Paul Coreil told reporters that the site would function like an online farmers’ market. “The service will help producers find a market anywhere in the country for their products,” Coreil said. “This raises our [agriculture and seafood] marketing efforts to the next level. This will be a huge boost for our rural economy.”
MarketMaker was originally developed by the University of Illinois and is already in use by 12 states. Arkansas and Florida join Louisiana as upstarts looking to go online within the next year. About $125,000 in federal recovery funds will be used to purchase the software, develop it and keep the site going for three years. After that, the Louisiana Farm Bureau and state departments of agriculture and fisheries have committed to sustaining the program. The service will be free to both buyers and sellers.
The concept is simple enough: Farmers and fishermen will be able to enter their contact information and their products, including sizes and varieties. Everyday consumers, restaurants, chefs, wholesalers and others will then be able to search Louisiana MarketMaker for what they want, and the free enterprise system takes over from there. The Web portal will not be used to negotiate price and shipping.
Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain said there will be an aggressive outreach campaign to contact wholesalers, restaurants and the like. “We want to simplify the direct marketing concept for our producers,” Strain added. “This is a great tool. It could mean tens of millions of dollars for our small producers.”
It’ll be simple enough to use — for those with Internet access. That alone, though, could be a major hurdle. For instance, Strain noted that only 57 percent of Louisiana farmers have a way to the Web. While no firm numbers were available for commercial fishermen, Coreil said the same type of challenges can be found there as well. In the coming months, producers will have the ability to enter their information at any number of state agriculture and fisheries offices. “We’re going to give them a wide variety of opportunities to get online,” Coreil said. “We’ll make it as easy as we can.”
In particular, the Web portal could be a boost to the fledgling shrimp industry, said Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Robert Barham. In addition to battling cheap imports, high fuel prices and other market factors, the industry, Barham maintained, is also losing bodies. In 2000, there were 6,900 commercial shrimpers in Louisiana, but today that number is down to 2,900.
While the program might appear to be geared toward fishermen, Barham added that processors, many of whom are sitting on record inventories, will be able to use the portal, too. “This could help us create a real identity for Louisiana shrimp,” he said.
Value-added products, like ice cream from the state’s dairy farmers, will be able to be listed on the site as well, officials say. As such, the probable list could be huge: alligator hides, sweet potatoes, nutria meat, Ponchatoula strawberries, catfish filets, Ruston peaches, Natchitoches meat pies and more. But more than just listing products, the Web site will also be able to analyze all of the markets, become the source for other databases and determine market demographics.
During the next couple of months, officials from the LSU AgCenter will begin conducting training sessions across the state so producers can start populating the site.
For more information, the national site can be found at www.national.marketmaker.uiuc.edu.
MAY 22 This post was written the day after the second line shooting in NOLA, by Brentin Mock. Mock is a friend of Deb "Big Red" Cotton, a blogger who was shot in the back and was seriously injured. It is a raw, emotional piece of writing, something the writer obviously felt he needed to get off his chest. But it raises questions that can't be easily dismissed, and might give some insight into where the source of these events truly is.
MAY 22 In this Baton Rouge Business Report post, Rolfe McCollister considers the privatization of bus service in Baton Rouge. After decades of under-funding, it is a mess, and although a tax (partially) passed last year, improvement hasn't happened yet. McCollister apparently feels it is time to let private business get in on the transit business.
MAY 22 This post on Bayou Buzz by Jeff Crouere urges the defeat of a bill that would grant modest pay increases over the next several years to the state's judges and clerks of court. The state is in no position to fund pay hikes, Crouere argues, with the pay increases costing a total of $9 million over several years. It sends the wrong message to the (proverbial) hard-working people of Louisiana, he says.
MAY 22 The Advocate reports here that State Treasurer John Kennedy is complaining about a meeting of the corporation that oversees the state's tobacco settlement. The Governor wanted it restructured, and he has some support, but not a lot. The corporation agreed with his plan, but Kennedy didn't, and it appears that the meeting was noticed in a manner completely different than that of all previous meetings. Kennedy's given to hyperbole, but in this case the fish don't smell too fresh.
MAY 22 In this Advocate story, Carencro Police Chief Carlos Stout says the recent federal indictment of a strip club owner is all wrong. The indictment alleges that drugs and prostitution went on with impunity because club staff made arrangements with "local" police. Stout says it never happened, and while his cops do work security in the parking lot, they're not allowed inside.
MAY 22 This amusing post in DIG Baton Rouge recounts an ad that ran on Craig's List recently; the advertiser was seeking tenants for a Beauregard Town house. He knew his market, and wrote an ad that the most ironical hipster couldn't resist. Apparently, he really did know his market, because the ad worked like a charm.
MAY 22 In this post in The Lens, Mark Moseley comments on the rhetoric Gov. Jindal employed in trying to save his tax "reform" package. One interesting point concerns Jindal's use of his brother, Nikesh, in a little story. Nikesh left Louisiana because of his inability to get a decent job, the story goes, but the story won't hold water: Nikesh lives in DC, which has an income tax level comparable to Louisiana, Moseley says. If income taxes caused the dismal situation, it should exist in DC too. Right?
MAY 22 This post by columnist John Maginnis traces the trajectory of the bill that would fund construction at community and technical colleges -- and bypass the Board of Regents and traditional higher ed funding mechanisms. Sure, it will bust the legislature's self-imposed debt limit, but some leges feel that there's more need (because there is more growth) in the community and technical college area than in the university area, he says.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.