New Mexico ag workers monitor priorities in 2023 Farm Bill

PROMO Government - USDA United States Department of Agriculture Building Washington DC - iStock - Melissa Kopka
Published Tuesday, April 11, 2023
by Roz Brown

(New Mexico News Connection) Many farmers and ranchers in drought-ridden New Mexico are making improvements to their irrigation systems this spring, while also keeping an eye on the  2023 Farm Bill. The bill, reauthorized by Congress every five years, has always been about fair food prices for farmers and consumers, and maintaining a sufficient food supply. The focus was initially on commodity crops such as corn, wheat and soybeans - but has grown to fund farm subsidies, low-income food assistance programs and conservation projects. 

A farmer's ability to navigate and address climate change is now also a big part of the Farm Bill, according to New Mexico Secretary of Agriculture Jeff Witte. 

"There's going to be some opportunities for our landowners to really look at improving their own operations and hopefully participate in some of the climate-smart projects that will bring a return to the farm," Witte said.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is currently investing more than $3 billion dollars for 141 projects through its "Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities" program - meaning those things produced using farming, ranching or forestry practices that reduce greenhouse-gas emissions or sequester carbon. 

Witte contends too many of New Mexico's ag products are processed elsewhere, and the state is now building out its local meat-processing operations to get more protein to people who need it. That could be at farmers markets - with products sold directly to the consumer - or through the Community Supported Agriculture system, known as "CSAs." Witte pointed to the  2017 Census of Agriculture, which showed only 6% of the state's farmers and ranchers direct-marketed to consumers.

"We've challenged our staff at the Department of Agriculture to be more creative in creating those opportunities, to get more local farmers and ranchers marketing to those in New Mexico," Witte said. 

Agriculture generates 258,000 jobs in the state, with total wages of nearly $12 billion and a total food-and-ag industry economic impact of $40 billion, according to the  2023 Feeding the Economy report. may earn an affiliate commission if you purchase products or services through links in an article. Prices, when displayed, are accurate at the time of publication but may change over time. Commissions do not influence editorial independence.

The Kiowa County Press is an independent newspaper published in Eads, Kiowa County, Colorado, and to the world at