New Data Show Veteran, Women, and “New” Farmers Play Key Role in NM’s Agriculture Industry

April 26, 2019

New Mexico is one of the only states that has increased the number of farms, and also has high percentages of farmers and ranchers who are female, have served in the military, or are new to agriculture, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the New Mexico Department of Agriculture.

The recently released 2017 Census of Agriculture data show there were 50,850 agricultural producers in the state. New Mexico is also one of the only states where the number of farms has continued to increase. As of 2017, our state had 25,044 farms, about 10,000 more than in 2002.

Jeff Witte, New Mexico’s secretary of agriculture, said these findings “once again prove that New Mexico has a strong culture in ag and that our people have a strong desire to grow and continue to provide food for their families.”

The census found that 26% farmers and ranchers in the state are “new,” meaning they have fewer than 10 years on any farm or ranch. Those with military service account for 13% compared to the 11% national average. Forty-one percent of farmers and ranchers in New Mexico are women – which tracks with our state having the highest percentage of female-owned businesses.

Meanwhile, 7% of the state’s farmers and ranchers are “young producers” under the age of 35, a critical component of the producer mix according to Witte.

“We need to continue to engage our youth and keep them interested in the agriculture industry,” he said. “Whether it’s farming, technology, ranching, or the value-added industry, there are many opportunities in New Mexico.”

The agriculture industry is critical to our state, not only for the food and fiber it produces, but also for New Mexico’s economic future.

Overall agriculture production totaled $3.38 billion in 2017, a 5.3% increase from 2016. The crop production value was $720 million while the value of livestock production (which includes dairy) was $2.33 billion. This results in more than 48,000 jobs, $5.9 billion in output, and $2.0 billion in labor income for New Mexico.

Agriculture is a also major export industry within New Mexico, which means it brings in outside dollars to increase local incomes and jobs, according to the Lineberry Policy Center for Natural Resource Management.

The new census data make it clear that farming and ranching provide major economic opportunities for our state. Continuing to grow the agriculture industry – and other sectors such as energy and tourism – will create a brighter future for New Mexico.