Issue: Agriculture

Overview

Resilience in New Mexico Agriculture is a project that began in 2014 to address unprecedented challenges to the health of the agriculture industry – issues no one farmer, rancher or businessman could tackle alone. The project has had help from many funders, but its backbone organizations are New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service (NMSU) and New Mexico First.

Foundationally, this project advances three activities: reforms to strengthen agricultural resilience in New Mexico; support for the industry from policymakers and stakeholders; and improved understanding by the public about the values of agriculture to the state’s future. To achieve these goals, the project centers on the implementation of a statewide policy plan for New Mexico agriculture – the Ag Plan. The Ag Plan focuses on 4 main policy areas: land and water, supporting the next generation of farmers and ranchers, improving and expanding the agricultural supply chain, and ensuring economic viability for agriculture.


Policy Priorities

Our policy priorities include land and water, the next generation of farmers and ranchers, the agriculture supply chain and agricultural economic viability.

Land and Water

Healthy land and adequate water are essential for agricultural resilience. Farmers and ranchers simply cannot grow crops or raise livestock without these resources. New Mexico’s dry climate, as well as competing needs for land and water, create an urgent need for effective policy and management. Recommendations stemming from the Ag Plan regarding land and water focus on:

  • Improving legal and permitting processes for water rights
  • Advancing balanced land-use management
  • Prioritizing water research
  • Pursuing watershed restoration for multiple use

The Next Generation of Farmers and Ranchers

New Mexico agriculture is a deeply-rooted profession where families of all cultures have worked the land for generations. In recent decades, fewer younger operators are entering the business – resulting in an aging workforce.

New Mexico needs new blood in agriculture, and recommendations in this section of the plan center on reducing barriers that keep young and beginning farmers and ranchers from succeeding in their careers. Policy actions recommended by the Ag Plan include:

  • Promoting and expanding agricultural education and training opportunities
  • Improving access to land for young and beginning farmers and ranchers
  • Creating attainable access to credit and capital for young and beginning farmers and ranchers

The Agricultural Supply Chain

Getting food from the farm to your plate is the job of the agricultural supply chain. It is not enough to have great farmers and ranchers; food systems rely on businesses that process, store and deliver meats and produce, as well as markets where those foods get purchased.

In New Mexico, many of the links in our supply chain are weak – or non-existent. Strengthening this system can create new jobs, bring more money to the state, and feed more New Mexicans. The Ag Plan recommends the following actions:

  • Increase producer access to resources, training to get products to consumers
  • Achieve a unified brand for New Mexico agriculture products
  • Identify and increase supply chain infrastructure for small to medium-scale producers of animal products and specialty crops
  • Increase local buying and procurement by anchor public and private institutions
  • Increase consumer base and market access for New Mexico agriculture products
  • Reduce food waste through improved food donation and compost systems

Agricultural Economic Viability

Agriculture production and food processing are important parts of New Mexico’s economy, accounting for roughly 13 percent of the gross state product. Rural communities especially rely on agriculture as a major contributor to their local economies.

However, farming and ranching remain high-risk businesses. Agriculture relies on public and government support and understanding to remain economically viable careers and provide adequate food supply for communities. To help improve and ensure agricultural economic viability, the Ag Plan recommends the following:

  • Gather and disperse information on agriculture’s financial contributions and considerations to inform public debate and policy
  • Support programs to help farmers and ranchers cost-effectively satisfy new worker’s compensation requirements
  • Promote and develop cost effective agricultural leasing and lending
  • Advance tax exemptions that support the financial health of farm and ranch operations

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