Sweet potato industry shrinking in Louisiana - KNOE 8 News; KNOE-TV; KNOE.com |

Sweet potato industry shrinking in Louisiana

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DELHI La. (KNOE 8 News) - Sweet potatoes are high in nutrition and demand, but local sweet potato farms are shrinking.

The sweet potato industry is growing rapidly, but the market is changing in Louisiana especially.

And competition with northern states puts pressure on the local farms.

"The North Carolina industry then developed the covington sweet potato, which is not very appealing in its looks. We get quite a bit more money for our sweet potatoes than they do. But at the same time it yields better," said Owner of Dawson Farms, Lev Dawson.

Louisiana State University's experiment station helped develop a different high-yielding potato for the south.

"It took over the industry by storm, and it didn't grow as well up in North Carolina," said Dawson.

Louisiana's sweet potatoes are also better quality.

"Down here this soil makes a prettier sweet potato, and a better tasting sweet potato, But it doesn't yield as much," said Dawson.

But not all local farmers have been able to keep up. With the expense and demand for fresh markets like Wal-Mart or Brookshire's.

"It's difficult to be small and be in the fresh market," said Dawson.

Dawson says fees, market prices fluctuating, refrigeration costs, machinery, and bad weather are all expenses – with minimum incentive.

"So there is no incentive for farmers to switch to sweet potatoes down here now. They can make a good living with corn, beans, and in some cases cotton," said Dawson.

LSU's experiment station continues to work on more sweet potato developments, so Louisiana can compete with North Carolina's high yield.

Dawson's farm is one of the largest in the country, and produces 3,500 acres of sweet potato a year.

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