The New Mexico Farm & Livestock Bureau invited the Rio Grande Foundation to contribute to its summer conference, held in Taos last week. We participated in a panel discussion on how the agriculture community can more effectively communicate with state legislators.
It was clear, both during the panel and chatting with individuals afterward, that New Mexico’s agriculture community feels besieged. Radical environmentalists were a common complaint. Electricity costs, “renewable” fuels, and the EPA’s “Clean Water Rule” were specific concerns.
In 2013, cash receipts for New Mexico farms totaled $3.8 billion. Livestock products — primarily milk, cattle, and calves — represented the bulk of the sum. Contrary to common misconception, green chile isn’t the state’s biggest cash crop — that would be hay. Pecans landed in the second slot, with green chile in third and greenhouse/nursery products in fourth.
New Mexico desperately needs more manufacturing, IT, logistics, finance, energy, and biotech jobs. But agricultural operations remain an important part of the state’s economy. With the growth of the buy-local movement and the opening of foreign markets to U.S. farmers, the bureau’s members have new opportunities to expand their enterprises. In New Mexico, agriculture needs low taxes, reasonable regulations, and affordable energy as much as any industry.