LaPlace man in statewide election

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 14, 2011



LAPLACE – A LaPlace native is banking on a grassroots effort to generate support for his candidacy for Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture in the Oct. 22 general election.

Jamie LaBranche, 43, is one of three candidates for the top agricultural position in the state, joining incumbent Mike Strain and fellow newcomer Belinda Alexandrenko on the ballot. LaBranche said he is running on a platform that includes a focus on a medical agriculture program, the elimination of unnecessary hunting and fishing taxes for children and an effort to return agricultural studies to the school system.

“There are opportunities that our state is missing out on that I am ready to capitalize on,” LaBranche said. “We need to be more aggressive in building an agricultural community that fosters jobs for our residents.”

LaBranche said he wants the state to consider a program that harvests the wild palmetto crop that is found throughout the swamps and wetland areas of south Louisiana. He said other states in the region are harvesting the crop and making money on the medicinal value of the plant.

“There are so many plants native to our area that are valuable in multiple ways, and we are not doing enough to grow and harvest them properly,” LaBranche said. “Medical agriculture is a $100 million industry in some areas, and we are missing out.”

LaBranche said he wants the state to devote acreage around Angola State Penitentary for the cultivation of poppy plants, which are used in several common prescription drugs. He wants the state to partner with drug companies to process the products for use.

LaBranche also intends to bring forth an initiative to eliminate the need for hunting and fishing licences for young children in the state.

“As a man of Cajun decent, I spent my quality time fishing and hunting with my father,” he said. “It was at those times that he instilled in me the values of being a man and the principles of hard work, honesty and integrity. I believe if you are not old enough to buy a beer in the state of Louisiana then you should not have to be taxed for something as simple as a fishing trip. Safety classes will still be necessary, but young children should be allowed to hunt and fish under a supervising adult’s license.”

LaBranche also wants the state to partner with local fishermen to create an Internet-based farmers market that would allow Gulf Coast fishermen to advertise their catch to a wider customer base.

“It is a proactive initiative that will assist our fishermen in today’s competitive markets,” said LaBranche. “We now have the opportunity to regain our independence from the dependency on foreign goods, and we must act now to assist Gulf Coast fishermen in marketing their goods in the national and international markets.”

LaBranche is a graduate of East St. John High School and has Bachelor of Science degree in horticulture from LSU. He has worked the last 24 years as a project manager for landscaping and horticulture projects at state military bases through the Department of Agriculture Forestry.