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NM agriculture facing unprecedented challenges

Leaders in the agriculture and food industries have joined forces to develop a Resilience in New Mexico Agriculture strategic plan to help maintain a resilient food and agriculture system in New Mexico. (Courtesy Of Jane Moorman/Nmsu)

Leaders in the agriculture and food industries have joined forces to develop a Resilience in New Mexico Agriculture strategic plan to help maintain a resilient food and agriculture system in New Mexico. (Jane Moorman/NMSU)

Agriculture in New Mexico faces unprecedented challenges to the health of the industry.

An aging population of farmers and ranchers, increasing pressure on water and other natural resources, rising costs for land, energy, equipment and other production needs, unsustainable farmers’ and ranchers’ incomes, and complex regulations are some of the challenges the Resilience in New Mexico Agriculture project is contemplating.

New Mexico State University’s College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, the state Department of Agriculture and New Mexico First have joined forces to develop a strategic plan to help maintain a resilient New Mexico food and agricultural system.

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation funded $100,000 and the Thornburg Foundation, including contributions from the McCune Charitable Foundation, the New Mexico Department of Agriculture and the Santa Fe Community Foundation, provided a total of $125,000 to NMSU’s Cooperative Extension Service and New Mexico First to fund the multi-phased study.

“The Thornburg Foundation 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.”

Many of these threats, such as uncertain water and natural resource availability, and low producer income, are not unique to New Mexico, and other states have bolstered their agricultural sector through common plans of action.

“We have entered the second phase of the study,” said project coordinator Michael Patrick, NMSU Extension economic development specialist. “We are creating a strategic plan for New Mexico to develop a more resilient agricultural system.”

After regional listening sessions during the first phase of the project in 2015, NMSU and New Mexico First have compiled key facts and data on the state’s agricultural industry.

“Because New Mexico is so diverse in terms of its geography, culture and different agriculture practices, we really needed to listen to folks involved in agriculture across the state to really identify what are the real challenges that resonate with the different industries within agriculture and food production,” said Jon Boren, NMSU College of ACES associate dean and CES director. Boren expressed his thanks to the greater New Mexico agricultural community for all the help that was provided during this process.

“Now representatives from the various agricultural commodity industries across the state have come together to talk about the challenges that were identified during the listening sessions and what strategies we might be able to embrace to successfully move forward as an industry,” Boren said of the 35- to 40-member task force working on the strategic plan.

“The task force membership includes a wide array of different elements of the agriculture and food industries,” said Heather Balas, New Mexico First’s president and executive director. “They are working together to develop a platform of recommendations for both public-sector and private-sector leaders to strengthen agriculture to be sure we have a vibrant industry into the future.”

The task force is focusing on four areas: agriculture economic viability, next generation of farmers and ranchers, supply chain expansion, and land and water issues.

Committees for each focus area are developing recommendations and strategies. The recommendations will identify the top priorities of the committee and set a high-level goal for the future.

Finally, the strategies will be researched well, and NMSU and New Mexico First will provide a detailed action plan that gives enough guidance for others to take action. The plan will also provide steps by which the high-level recommendations can be achieved.

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