A Nutty Idea for Economic Development

When New Mexico’s U.S. senators get behind a policy proposal, it’s a safe bet that it’s a bad idea. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich are reflexive supporters of bigger government, from “green” extremism to Obamacare.

But the two fedpols can get it right, occasionally. An example: They have signed on to an effort, led by Texas’s Ted Cruz, to urge “U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to take action on removing barriers to the exports of American tree nuts to India, pecans in particular.”

American exports of pecans have soared in the last 25 years, but with a tariff of 36 percent, India has erected a significant barrier to its potentially vast market.

Among states, only Georgia grows more pecans than the Land of Enchantment. The origin of the industry was described by The New York Times in 2014. Nearly a century ago,

a Texas farmer who was hauling a load of pecans westward broke down one day, spilling his wares on the road. Mexican workers, who loved to snack on pecans and had a special affinity for the nuts from their use in northern Mexican cuisine, brought them to Deane Stahmann Sr., a local cotton farmer.

Mr. Stahmann eventually planted a pecan orchard south of Las Cruces. These days, he is widely thought of as the father of the New Mexico pecan industry, and for many years, the Stahmann family farm was the best-known pecan operation in the region.

As it turns out, the searing New Mexico sun suited pecan trees quite well, as long as they got enough water.

Usually harvested in November, pecans are the state’s top agricultural product — yes, surpassing even green chile. Last year’s crop brought record-high prices.

Udall and Heinrich are not, of course, fighting for a lower tariff because they’re deeply committed to the spread of global capitalism. They’re interested in reelection. But no matter. Free trade works for New Mexico. (The Albuquerque Journal recently explored the “bustling industrial border hub” of Santa Teresa.) Let’s hope that the Indian government recognizes that free trade works for everyone, and scraps its pecan protectionism — for the good of New Mexico growers and Bharat consumers.

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