The Service Center, now located in the newly remodeled, former Fruit of the Loom warehouse on Veterans Memorial Drive, houses members from Federal, State and Local conservation and agricultural agencies including the USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Farm Service Agency (FSA), Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry Office of Soil and Water Conservation, as well as the Vermilion Soil and Water Conservation District.
NRCS State Conservationist Kevin Norton from Alexandria said the USDA Service Center said the new location provides a better space and atmosphere for conducting business than previous locations.
“This is a unique office - something that you will not find in the Federal Delivery System,” Norton noted. “We have blended together federal, state and local people here for one purpose: to serve the people of Vermilion Parish.” The NRCS, Norton explained, was formed in the 1930s, and has evolved from concern about the rapid erosion that was caused by the Dust Bowl.
“There is a long history - 10,000 years worth of civilization history - that says if the natural resources fail, the communities will fail. We will not survive as a parish, as a community, as a state or as a country if our natural resources fail,” he said.
“We won’t survive if we don’t have food on the table,” Norton said. “That’s what this partnership is about: bringing together productive agriculture (and) sustainability of natural resources in harmony,” he added.
“Thanks to the appropriations that come through Congress, we are here as a federal agency in this partnership,” Norton said to Boustany.
FSA State Executive Director Willie Cooper addressed gratitude to Boustany and Abbeville Mayor Mark Piazza for their cooperation in setting up the USDA Service Center. “This is government at its best,” he said about the ability to bring federal, state and local agencies together. “This is the best working relationship of any USDA Service Center in the U.S.”
Boustany said the new Service Center will “help us coordinate all of our efforts even better than before.” Boustany stressed agriculture’s economic importance to Louisiana and especially Vermilion Parish. “NRCS has been very actively engaged,” he said, in dealing with the negative impacts of hurricanes, including saltwater intrusion.
“This is about coordinating our efforts and making government work,” Boustany said. “As Willie Cooper said earlier, farmers don’t care (about who’s doing what) - they want answers.” Boustany said the Service Center is going to address the needs of Vermilion Parish by coordinating agencies on multiple levels and to provide answers to farmers about soil quality, saltwater intrusion, etc. He also added that he will work to ensure the working farmland south of LA Hwy 14 is preserved because it is “our way of life and our culture” for Vermilion Parish. Boustany said he is going to work to pass the Coastal Protection Plan as quickly as possible “to make sure we preserve that way of life and preserve that economic development in the form of agriculture, fisheries and energy production. It’s critical to the State of Louisiana and I’m committed to it,” he concluded.
Mayor Mark Piazza expressed his gratitude for Boustany’s involvement in recovery after Hurricane Ike, and for his involvement in the new Service Center. Piazza said the new Service Center gives Vermilion Parish a sense of security during uncertain economic times. He said the City of Abbeville is especially grateful for the newly remodeled building, which replaced an “eye sore” with a new business, which is a sign of growth and prosperity for Vermilion Parish.
District Conservationist Dan Diddier said the building was acquired from building manager Leonard Handford, who was able to meet the requirements of the departments including square footage, parking accessibility and cost, and Handford was responsible for the building’s remodel.
The goal of the new location: “To turn this building into a plaza that will be recognized and appreciated by the City of Abbeville,” Handford said in the ceremony.