Changing markets, weather, and resources made for some difficult times for New Mexico's farmers and ranchers.
That’s according to the 2018 New Mexico Agricultural Statistics Bulletin published last week by the New Mexico Department of Agriculture and the USDA New Mexico field office, which offered insight to the area’s local farming and ranching operations.
The report analyzes survey forms filled out by New Mexico farmers and ranchers. As a result of those survey forms, New Mexico's total value of agriculture production decreased in 2018 to $3.17 billion, 6.3 percent below the previous year. The dairy industry, the largest leading commodity in the state, fell to $1.21 billion in milk sales to 9.2 percent below the previous year high of $1.33 billion.
In 2018, New Mexico was ranked number one in the United States in both chile and pecan production. New Mexico’s chile production increased to 71,100 tons, surpassing California as the top producing state. The state pecan production measured 9.1 million tons taking Georgia’s top position.
The ag census conducted the first of every year, noted that women producers continue to play a vital role in New Mexico's farm families. There were 14,979 women producers on New Mexico's 25,044 farms and ranches. The state also had 10,628 new and beginning producers, which represented 25 percent of the state's total number of producers. Young producers accounted for 13 percent of New Mexico's total, which was higher than the national average of 11 percent.
About 912,476 acres of land were involved in 658 farming operations in Socorro County according to the last agricultural census. With the average size operation listed as 1,387 acres, those farms netted an average income of about $11,067.
Livestock numbers took a bit of a downward trend in Socorro County. Beef cows decreased from 14,700 in 2018 to 14,600 in 2018. Dairy herds also decreased from 12,800 head in 2018 to 12,000 in 2019. However, the number of sheep and lambs raised totaled 2,000 head, up from 1,300 a year prior.
Socorro’s largest crop was alfalfa. About 27,000 tons were harvested in 2018. No records were listed for chile or onion production in Socorro County.
A little more than 340 farms were involved in farming 221,495 acres of land in neighboring Catron County. The average size farm was 177 acres. According to the report, the value of the products sold was $9,317,000.
The number of beef cows decreased slightly from 16,600 in 2018 to 16,000 in 201. Sheep and lambs also fell from 500 head in 2018 to 300 in 2019.
With more than 1.2 million acres of land in Sierra County, the average size farm for 257 farmers was 3,939 acres. Net farm income for those individuals was listed at $2,509.
Cattle and calves in Sierra County accounted for 20,000 head in 2019 down from 20,500 in 2018. Sheep and lambs numbered 200 head in 2018 and only 100 head in 2019.
Sierra County also accounted for 9,760 tons of chile and 970 pounds of pecans in 2018.
In neighboring Valencia County, some 1,360 farmers farmed 517,502 acres of land. The average size farm was 381. According to the UDSA bulletin, those farms operated at a loss of $3,516.
The number of cattle and calves number 24,000 in 2019. The number of milk cows was up from 8,000 in 2018 to 8,500 in 2019. The number of sheep and lambs was listed at 1,400 head in 2019.