Slow recovery ahead for Louisiana seafood and agriculture

Slow recovery ahead for Louisiana seafood and agriculture

Three weeks after Hurricane Ida crashed ashore, life in many parts of southeast Louisiana is starting to return to a semblance of normalcy. But for two important state industries – seafood and agriculture – the recovery remains slow and will likely take months. The Advocate’s Megan Wyatt outlines the slow recovery ahead for coastal fishing communities, and its impact on America’s seafood supply.

“What’s often lost to people who are New Orleans residents is how much Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes actually contribute to their economy,” said Louisiana Rep. Tanner Magee, R-Houma. “I think they think it’s the other way around — and I’m not saying they don’t contribute — but they have these big, famous restaurants that are predominantly selling what’s caught in Terrebonne Parish or Lafourche Parish or Plaquemines Parish. These coastal parishes make up the bulk of the seafood not just for New Orleans but really for the United States. Even Maryland crabcakes are supplemented by Louisiana crabs.”

Jacqueline DeRobertis writes in the Advocate that many farmers, whose crops took a beating with the category 4 storm, find themselves in the same waterlogged boat. 

“It looks like someone took a shotgun and just shot through them because there’s holes in the leaves,” she said. “It’s too late in the game to say, ‘go replant.’ So whatever we lose, it will just be a loss.” … It’s difficult to measure what the economic impact of Ida will be for agriculture until harvest, [Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry Mike Strain] said. Some of it depends on how the weather behaves in the coming weeks.

Redrawing the political map
With new data in from the 2020 U.S. Census, Louisiana’s political map is due for revision. As Wesley Muller reports in the Louisiana Illuminator, as rural Louisiana has lost population to the state’s suburbs and cities, nearly every district in the state House and Senate will look different after redistricting is through – some substantially so. With so much of the map poised to be redrawn and with control over the maps shared between a Republican legislature and a Democratic governor, Louisiana’s politicians have a unique opportunity to build the infrastructure for a more representative legislature.

Peter Robins-Brown, policy and advocacy director with Louisiana Progress, said he hopes lawmakers will choose more competitive districts — meaning districts that aren’t dominated by the same candidate or the same party every election cycle. “Redistricting plays a central role in how our politics work, or whether our politics work at all,” he said. “We live in extremely politically divisive times, and Louisiana’s current political maps fuel that division by locking politicians and political parties into extremely safe seats, with little or no real competition.”

Child-care worker exodus
It’s hard to find qualified child-care workers when a nearby Dunkin Donuts pays more. But that’s the reality for South Shore Stars’ early-childhood program in Weymouth, Mass. — and for many child care centers across the country — as child-care workers leave a demanding, year-round profession that pays them very little for other, better opportunities. And while child care centers’ struggles to attract workers aren’t new, they are starting to reach crisis levels that could send ripple effects through the nation’s economic recovery, as parents stay out of the workforce because child care spaces aren’t available. The Washington Post’s Heather Long reports

Without enough employees, day cares are turning away children, leaving parents — especially mothers — unable to return to work. Nearly 1.6 million moms of children under 17 are still missing from the labor force. They dropped out during the pandemic to care for children and have not been able to return to work as the school and day care situation remains chaotic, especially for unvaccinated children under the age of 12. There are still covid outbreaks occurring at schools, and some child-care centers and after-school programs remain closed or they are accepting fewer children.

Preventing Katrina-like inequities after Ida
Louisiana’s Road Home Program, which was designed after Hurricane Katrina, perpetuated long standing racial inequities because it based payments off of the pre-storm value of a property, not the actual cost of rebuilding. Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League and a former mayor of New Orleans, wants people to remember the inequities of that program so they are not repeated during Hurricane Ida’s recovery. As WWL’s David Hammer reports, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge agrees with Morial.

“The first order the president gave was on equity,” she said when questioned by WWL-TV about historic racial disparities in storm recovery. “I’m here to ensure that equity is a part of the equation. If we don’t do that, I think we will have failed at the job that I have been sent here to do.”

Number of the Day
– Number of FEMA claims filed (so far) in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida (Source: Louisiana Illuminator)