“Buying local” is all the rage these days in New Mexico. From this opinion piece in the Las Cruces Sun-News to this legislation introduced by Sen. Tim Keller which would require state agencies and the public schools to increase the amount of food purchased from in-state producers.
Now, I’m not opposed at all to people (or businesses) that want to purchase food from local producers wherever possible. But, the fact is that it is interstate and international trade that leads to better quality products, a wider variety of products, and less costly goods at our stores. Those who would stand in the way of a Traders Joe’s or would mandate that government agencies purchase from local producers will ultimately harm the citizens of New Mexico as a whole.
For starters, how many tropical products just aren’t produced in New Mexico? Do you really want school children and their families to go without pineapples, coffee, and oranges (to name just a few of dozens of products that are not produced in significant quantities in New Mexico)?
Then there is water usage. In case you haven’t noticed, it has been really dry this year. New Mexico faces real water issues in the future if it does not conserve. But let’s be clear, the problem is NOT caused by the big cities. Agriculture uses an astonishing 90% of New Mexico’s water. Mandating that even more agricultural products are produced in New Mexico will only intensify agriculture’s water usage.
The answer, quite simply, is for both the federal and state governments to stop subsidizing agriculture and to allow a truly free market in food. If you want to purchase organic, free range, New Mexico-produced goods, that is your choice (and you’ll pay whatever premium there is), just don’t force the rest of us to adopt your “foodie” habits.