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Louisiana Sweet Potato Commission celebrating 70 years

By
Keith Loria

This year, the Louisiana Sweet Potato Commission is celebrating its 70th anniversary representing sweet potato growers, shippers and processors.

“We are planning a yearlong celebration, including a new advertising campaign highlighting the growers and industry personnel that make it all possible,” said Rene Simon, director of the Louisiana Sweet Potato Commission. “We’ll be celebrating the 70th anniversary of the founding of the commission by having state and local government bodies pass resolutions recognizing the historical and economic benefits of Louisiana’s largest vegetable crop.”

sdfOne of the things on tap for 2022 — the commission is increasing research funding for the LSU AgCenter’s Sweet Potato Research Station, located on 300 acres in northeast Louisiana near Chase. It is the only facility of its kind devoted solely to sweet potato research. Over the years, the new varieties developed at LSU are among the most popular in the world today.

“The funding will be used to ensure our growers are delivering the best and safest product to our customers,” Simon said. “The commission was formed to increase awareness of the sweet potato and to have a stable source of funding for research.”

The Louisiana Sweet Potato Commission’s office is situated in the state’s capital city of Baton Rouge in the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, under the direction of Commissioner Mike Strain.

“The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry continually reviews all of its protocols and rules to relieve growers of as much regulatory burden as possible,” Simon said.

For the 2022 sweet potato crop, growers in the state are scheduled to plant approximately 7,000 acres.

“This is the same acreage as 2021,” Simon said. “Growers are bedding sweet potatoes now (mid-March) with planting to begin by mid-April. If everything goes well, the state will have a yield of 450-500 bushels per acre.”

Though it’s too early to predict how exactly the season will go, Simon noted it’s off to an excellent start.

“This will hopefully lead to a good crop at harvest,” he said. “We are still more than five months away from harvest though; that’s when we will really know what kind of crop it is.”

Of course, labor challenges continue to be on farmers’ minds, but the real issue this season is the much higher input costs that are impacting all Louisiana growers.

Still, Louisiana farmers claim to be raising the best sweet potatoes grown in America for more than 112 years thanks to a soil and climate that make for the perfect growing season, and the growers are resilient and have overcome such challenges time and again.

Although the commission isn’t primarily focused on the retail side of things, this year being the 70th anniversary means it will pay extra attention to those efforts and will be helping to showcase farmers at store level to help consumers feel the connection to those growing sweet potatoes in Louisiana. All can follow the commission on Facebook and Instagram as well.

Simon suggested that retailers can improve sales by displaying them closer to the front of the produce section and include recipes that are easy for consumers to use, especially with grilling season soon here, providing new and innovative ways to cook and eat them.

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