Lack of farming, oil and gas opportunities leaving small towns high and dry

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Cadem Lim, Joe Kehrli, Logan Puissegur and Alexander Sobel, LSU Manship School News Service

Every morning, Floyd Dupre and his son Mike button up their denim shirts, throw on some jeans and slip into their boots. It’s another day on the farm tending to their cattle. Meanwhile, 60 miles east in the state’s capital, Floyd’s grandson and Mike’s nephew Joseph Dupre hits the gym near his apartment and heads to class at the state-of-the-art engineering building on LSU’s campus.

Joey Dupre is a chemical engineering student who wants to focus on sustainable energy sources. He aspires to live in Houston rather than take over his grandfather’s farm, and his story is typical for rural Louisiana, where younger generations are leaving for more opportunities in urban areas and other states. Data from the 2020 U.S. Census shows that 45 of Louisiana’s 64 parishes lost population over the last decade.

Shelbi Ourso said older people in towns like Pierre Part should not pressure their children to stay and take part in their family businesses.
Photo courtesy of Shelbi Ourso

Louisiana was fifth in the nation for slowest population growth; the only parishes that saw growth were the main urban ones and their suburbs. Louisiana’s population grew a mere 2.7%, according to Census data.

The national average was 7.4%. Towns in some of the swampland parishes closer to the Gulf of Mexico that rely on the petroleum industry are experiencing a similar loss as the country shifts to more renewable energy sources and storms intensify.

New Iberia residents say, for instance, that their area has been losing people to Lafayette and more distant places as oil-related business declines at its port. “Out of the six of us, my siblings and my cousins, that could choose where they wanted to live, only one of them lives in New Iberia,” Warner Simon, an LSU student from there, said. “Three of them live in New Orleans, one in Houston and one in Tampa Bay.”

READ THE FULL STORY IN THE THURSDAY, DEC. 30, 2021, PRINT EDITION….ON STANDS NOW.