Monday, March 13, 2006


Don't rush on rice


When the state Bond Commission considers Agriculture Commissioner Bob Odom's latest building plans, members should be as hard-nosed and skeptical as bankers.

Mr. Odom wants to build a $14 million rice processing terminal at the Port of Lake Charles. He says the project will help the state's struggling rice farmers who were hit hard by Hurricane Rita.

But the commission shouldn't allow the Louisiana Agricultural Finance Authority to borrow more money without an independent feasibility study that proves the project is sound.

After Katrina and Rita, the demands on Louisiana's resources are greater than ever. The commission must make sure that money is spent wisely. Removing the $12 million in slots revenue from Mr. Odom's control would be a good way to do that. Lawmakers who've attempted to wrest it away from him in the past have failed. But they ought to try again.

Louisiana's farmers were hurt by last year's storms. But economically shaky projects aren't the way to help them. Mr. Odom has a history of building boondoggles, and the Bond Commission needs to make sure it doesn't approve another one.

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