Associated PressNewsState

Louisiana agriculture dept. pays off hefty construction debt

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain says his agency has paid off $97 million in borrowing debts he inherited when he took over the office in 2008.

Strain told the House Appropriations Committee on Monday the Department of Agriculture and Forestry made the final payment in September, six years ahead of schedule.

The debt involved bonds sold by his predecessor, Bob Odom, to pay for construction projects and equipment purchases.

The projects included a sugar syrup mill in southwest Louisiana, an office complex in Woodworth, firefighting equipment and tractors and a remodeling of the department’s main office in Baton Rouge.

A yearly portion of taxes from racetrack slot machines helped pay off the debt. Strain says that money now will go to agency operations to lessen reliance on general tax dollars.

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