New Mexico could gain economically by building soil health and feeding its own people.

posted in: Economics, Policy | 0
Pecan orchard in Belen. Photo by Jeff Goebel


In Response, Working Group Releases Policy Recommendations
for consideration now and for the 2021 Legislative Session

Santa Fe, New Mexico (June 16, 2020) —A new study of New Mexico’s agriculture and food economy prompts key state policy recommendations from the NM Healthy Soil Working Group.

Prepared by the non-profit Crossroads Resource Center and based on publicly available data, the 46-page New Mexico Farm & Food Economy assembles statewide data on agricultural income, production expenses and information on food-related sectors, personal income, and health.

The report found that over the last 50 years NM farmers spent $14 billion more on animal feed than they sold, and $10 billion buying agrochemicals, petroleum products and agricultural inputs sourced out of state each year. Due to these ever increasing costs, there has been no gain in net cash income for farmers over the last 50 years. Building soil health is an opportunity for farmers and ranchers to gain independence from costly inputs and become prosperous again.

The data also demonstrate that at the same time hunger has increased. SNAP benefits (food stamps) are now at $600 million. New Mexicans spend $6.5 billion each year on food sourced from out of state. Ken Meter, author of the report, summed up “New Mexico has a $6.5 billion opportunity to grow food for its own people.”

Another finding of the report is that organic product sales rose 365% from $8.6 million in 2012 to $40 million in 2017, suggesting that New Mexico would further gain economically by building soil health while providing more wholesome food for New Mexicans.

Policy recommendations from the NM Healthy Soil Working Group have 5 major goals:
● Advance public health and food security in response to COVID 19 and for long-term;
● Create prosperity and jobs in agriculture, spurring local economic development;
● Honor farmers and ranchers and their adoption of healthy soil principles;
● Develop greater water retention, climate leadership and ecological well being;
● Embrace social equity, including by engaging diverse and frontline communities in
policymaking, to achieve the vast multicultural potential of the Land of Enchantment.

“It’s unacceptable New Mexico is classified as a food desert and so many are food insecure while 97% of food grown here is exported and farmers are barely getting by,” said Robb Hirsch, Co-Founder of the New Mexico Healthy Soil Working Group, and Executive Director of the Climate Change Leadership Institute, which commissioned the report.

The Working Group’s recommendations include boosting the New Mexico Department of Agriculture Healthy Soil Program; shortening supply chains from New Mexico farmer to New Mexico consumer; establishing a public bank that will keep dollars in the state and support soil-building producers; increasing marketing of locally raised products under management for soil health; setting state guidelines around food waste salvage and composting; protecting essential food system workers; and advancing self sufficiency and food security in NM while respecting our state’s many cultures and traditions.

“What we see in this study is a ripe opportunity to meld hunger mitigation, environmental resilience and economic development by redirecting dollars spent on costly inputs from out-of-state and investing instead in soil health,” said Christina Allday-Bondy, Co- Founder of the New Mexico Healthy Soil Working Group.

About NM Healthy Soil Working Group
The NM Healthy Soil Working Group is committed to the success of the state’s farmers and ranchers, knowing that building soil health creates co-benefits including rural and state economic gains, water availability and quality, more nutrient dense food leading to better public health, carbon drawdown and other key ecological services. Formed in the fall of 2018, the Working Group succeeded in passing the NM Healthy Soil Act by assembling an extensive coalition of hundreds of food and agriculture related organizations, farms and ranches, consumers, health practitioners and environmental groups.

About Climate Change Leadership Institute
The Climate Change Leadership Institute is a non profit organization dedicated to phasing out greenhouse gas emissions and empowering the community through the ethics of conservation, the adoption of clean energy and the act of taking responsibility as a civil society. To these ends, the Institute offers direct action projects, seed grants, paid student internships, ecology education, climate leadership and environmental stewardship initiatives.

About Crossroads Resource Center
Crossroads Resource Center, a non-profit organization, works with communities and their allies to foster democracy and local self-determination. The Center specializes in devising new tools communities can use to create a more sustainable future.

Related Links


NM Healthy Soil Working Group Policy Recommendations, June 2020

Key charts from the study New Mexico Farm & Food Economy:

This chart shows that commodity farming in New Mexico has created increasingly higher cash receipts (orange line), but because of an equal increase in production expenses (maroon line), this trend has not resulted in greater net cash income (red line). Farmers have to take on more debt but don’t make more profit –in fact 70% of New Mexico farms reported a net loss in 2017.
Nationwide, cash receipts (orange line) have increased dramatically over the past century, from $6 billion in 1910 to $363 billion in 2018. However, production expenses (maroon line) rose just as fast, increasing from $4 billion in 1910 to $359 billion in 2018. This means that the net farm income (red line; cash receipts less production expenses) has moved from $2 billion in 1910 (33% of sales) to $4 billion in 2018 (1% of sales). In the country that proudly says “We feed the world,” there has been no appreciable growth in the value of net farm income, despite rising productivity and expansion to global markets. Looking at the net cash income as a percentage of sales, there has been a tremendous erosion of profitability, from 33% of sales to 1% of sales.

Download the complete study at

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