The American Sugar Cane League is serious about promoting driver safety during the 2013 harvest season and has placed billboards on Louisiana's highway with its safety message to prove its point.
Mike Daigle, president of the League, said the billboards are colorful but also impart a serious safety message.
"The sugarcane industry is extremely important to Louisiana and we want to do everything we can to educate all drivers that harvest season is here," Daigle said. "The message is simple; we're harvesting, please drive carefully."
"We harvest in any type of weather. Rain will not stop us from harvesting but we train our drivers to slow down in wet conditions. We hope the motoring public is extra careful when they approach cane loading sites and cane wagons or trucks."
Two jumbo billboards are located on Hwy. 90 between Lafayette and New Iberia and a third is near the intersection of Hwy. 1 and 190 near New Roads.
Five "junior" billboards will be located on Hwys. 182, 31, 20, 308 and 1 in the St. Martinville, Franklin/Baldwin, Vacherie, Thibodaux and Raceland areas. A series of "portable" billboards will be placed sporadically alongside sugarcane fields on well-traveled roads.
The billboards feature sugarcane farmer Kassi Berard of Breaux Bridge, who farms alongside her father, Dane Berard. She hopes to take over the reins of the family's farming operation when her dad retires.
Berard, a graduate of Teurlings Catholic High School, earned a 2007 business marketing degree from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and is currently working toward a M.B.A. degree.
Her family's operations are comprised of Southland Farms and B&T Sugarcane farms. They cultivate 3,200 acres of land.
"I'm so proud to be associated with the league's safety campaign," Berard said. "I really love sugarcane farming and I'm grateful to have been the farmer featured on the billboards. It's exciting."
The 2012 sugarcane crop set a production record by delivering 15 million tons of cane to the state's 11 raw sugar mills. The mills produced 3.3 billion pounds of raw sugar.
In 2013, an estimated 409,209 acres of cane is available for raw sugar production. All sugar mills are expected to be in full operation by Oct. 15, Daigle said.