State Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain. (American Press Archives)
Last Modified: Thursday, July 11, 2013 9:29 AM
America’s water supply and agricultural output put it in “the driver’s seat” when it comes to meeting the growing worldwide demand for natural resources over the next several decades, state Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain told members of the Louisiana Rural Water Association on Wednesday.
Strain and Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne spoke at the association’s 28th annual conference at the Lake Charles Civic Center.
Food production worldwide is expected to increase 50 percent by 2030, and the world’s population is expected to reach 9.1 billion by 2050, Strain said. He said India will likely double its consumption of natural resources by 2040.
“We have great challenges ahead of us, but we have great opportunities,” he said. “The U.S. is a breadbasket of the world. The demand is going to grow, and we can fill a great deal of that demand if we handle our resources properly.”
Strain said the world is using 70 percent of its available freshwater and that 80 percent is being used for agriculture. He said 40 percent of the groundwater used in Louisiana is for agriculture.
Strain said the southeast region of the U.S. will see more growth “culturally, economically and industrially” because of its abundant water supply.
One ongoing issue, Strain said, is making sure the state Department of Environmental Quality will regulate how the state manages its water, instead of the Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Water Act.
“That is going to be a continued discussion, and it is going to drive public policy,” he said.
Dardenne said the state’s ports are thriving today because Louisiana has been a “water-appreciating people from the very beginning.”
“The work that you’re doing to preserve our water systems is a continuation and a recognition of why Louisiana was here to begin with,” he said.
Dardenne also spoke about a recent study stating that wildlife-related tourism has helped generate $2 billion in annual spending within Louisiana. The spending on activities like hunting, recreational fishing and wildlife watching supports 82,000 jobs within the state’s coastal parishes, according to the study, released Tuesday.
“The numbers were off the chart,” Dardenne said. “It’s a confirmation of what we’re saying. Tourism is big business, a job creator for Louisiana. It’s undervalued and underappreciated.”
The report, commissioned by the Environmental Defense Fund and the Walton Family Foundation, also states that wildlife tourism in the five Gulf Coast states produces 2.6 million jobs, $19.4 billion in annual spending and $5.3 billion in annual federal, state and local tax revenue.