New Mexico’s agriculture and food processing industries face many challenges and are looking to the future.
The combination of agriculture and food processing is an important part of New Mexico’s economy. Together,
the two broad industries accounted for $10.6 billion, roughly 12.3 percent of New Mexico’s $85 billion gross state product in 2012.
The future will bring opportunities to these industries that are important to the state’s economy, ranging from expanding sales to out-of-state markets to supplying New Mexico consumers with locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables. It will also bring the challenges of an aging agricultural workforce and the growing demand for water in a period of prolonged drought.
New Mexico State University and New Mexico First are joining forces to develop a strategic plan to help maintain a resilient New Mexico food and agricultural system. The Thornburg Foundation is coordinating the funding of the project.
“The Thornburg Foundation, along with other funders, has recognized that the threats facing the economic, social and environmental resilience of agriculture in our state are large, complex and immediate,” said Micaela Fischer, Thornburg Foundation policy officer for food and agriculture. “They are also likely too far-reaching for any group, business or government agency to handle independently.
“However, we’ve found that many of these threats, such as uncertain water and natural resource availability and paltry producer income, are not unique to New Mexico and other states have bolstered their agricultural sector through common plans of action,” Fischer said. “We hope to see the same success in increased health and wealth of New Mexico’s producers, eaters and working lands through the implementation of a state-wide plan for agricultural resilience.”
A two-year timeframe has been set for developing the plan.
“The plan will foster a food and agricultural system capable of withstanding new challenges,” said Michael Patrick, NMSU’s Cooperative Extension Service economic development specialist, “while advancing a strong and growing export-oriented commodity agriculture sector and a robust local food system of small to medium-sized family farms and ranches producing locally grown food to meet the growing consumer demand in the state,.”
NMSU’s extension service will assist New Mexico First in gathering information from a broad range of stakeholders at the grassroots level.
“New Mexico First is very good at gathering grassroots recommendations,” Patrick said. “The extension service is good at getting people together to share their opinion on issues being faced by this sector.”
Regional meetings are scheduled beginning in December and running through March.
The information will be compiled into a background report on the state of New Mexico agriculture, which will be used by a task force to develop the Resilience in New Mexico Food and Agriculture Strategic Plan.
“Once the information is gathered, NMSU College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences will be directly involved in interpreting the results that will be provided to a task force,” Patrick said.
“The long-term, collective impact of this initiative will necessitate the formation of multi-stakeholder groups who are committed to implementing the plan in order to ensure the resiliency of the food and agriculture system in New Mexico,” said Heather Balas, New Mexico First president. “It will take a diverse network of farmers, ranchers, processors, distributors and market organizers to make a difference in the future of an agriculture industry that is capable of withstanding new challenges and advancing to new successes.”
Meetings in 11 communities across the state will begin in December. The discussion in Albuquerque will be from 9:30 a.m. to noon, Wednesday, Jan. 13, at the Mid-Region Council of Government, 809 Cooper NW.