The New Mexican chile is an iconic and ubiquitous part of our state’s culture that draws tourists across our borders for the unique flavor and heat of our southwestern cuisine. Harvested on 9,100 acres across our state, New Mexican farmers produced 63,075 tons of chiles in 2019, and last year, New Mexican scientists even found a way to grow our chiles in space.
While New Mexico’s chile industry is an important part of our culture, it is also critical to our state’s economy. As the leading chile producer in the nation, the industry supports more than 5,000 jobs and contributes over $450 million to the state’s economy.
However, today, our farmers and ranchers are struggling amid drought conditions, worker shortages, foreign competition and lack of demand as a result of restaurant closures from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Unfortunately, these challenges could be exacerbated by recent actions in the state legislature. Right now, more than 20 bills moving through the Roundhouse stand to adversely impact these businesses – making it more difficult and costly to do business in New Mexico.
While the agricultural industry is resilient, the majority of our farms and ranches are small businesses with more than 90 percent family or individually owned. House Bill 20, in particular, would dramatically increase costs for small businesses and create an insolvable operating environment.
Several proposed bills would jeopardize water supplies for farmers, undermine existing farming practices by increasing costs and use of crop improvement chemicals and leave the agricultural industry vulnerable to unnecessary litigation from activists.
But what does this mean to you, New Mexican’s that are not in these businesses? As costs and regulations increase, our food processors and manufactures will close or move operations resulting in fewer opportunities to find work. Your kids will have to leave the state to find their career. As farms and ranches file for bankruptcy in response to these policies we will be forced to rely on foreign grown and processed foods that do not have the same food safety requirements as we do.
We have already seen our iconic chile industry diminish due to increased chile imports from Mexico and other countries. These policies could make it unprofitable to grow chile in New Mexico eliminating our states staple. We are already on that path and need to support our farmers.
The New Mexico Chile Association is concerned with the state of affairs in the Roundhouse. To address these issues, we joined a coalition of more than 20 business groups calling on our state legislators to focus their efforts on helping our state economy recover and rebuild.
Already, New Mexico is ranked in the bottom three states for best places to do business. We cannot allow bad policy to jeopardize our way of life and create a debilitating business environment that disincentives new investment in our communities now and in the future.
While we are hopeful that New Mexico has a bright future ahead, we know we cannot afford to squander new opportunities with bad legislation. State legislators need to work in tandem with our farmers, ranchers, and other businesses – both small and large – to build a better future for all New Mexicans.
Joram Robbs is the executive director for the New Mexico Chile Association.
The New Mexico Chile Association named chile entrepreneur, Lou Biad, as the 2021 Member of the Year during their annual association meeting on February 2nd 2021. The annual meeting usually occurs in conjunction with NMSU’s New Mexico Chile Conference however due to gathering restrictions the event was held virtually this year.
Entrepreneur Lou Biad, has dedicated his life to the chile industry. Mr. Biad’s father started in the industry by planting chile’s in Arrey, NM in 1951. Lou then built the first chile dehydrator in New Mexico in 1958. Mr. Biad was the first to bring mechanical dehydration to the industry which revolutionized the way red chile was processed. Before Mr. Biad’s invention of dehydrating chile, chile was dehydrated over a span of multiple days on roof tops and sand hills.
Mr. Biad served on NMSU’s Chile Task Force and was one of the founding members of the New Mexico Chile Association. It was under Mr. Biad’s leadership and vision that formed the industry led chile association to advocate for the industry.
This is the first award that the chile association has ever given out.
“This may be a Member of the Year Award but its more of a lifetime achieve award in this case,” said Gene Baca, Bueno Foods. “Lou Biad’s contributions to the industry span over decades and I couldn’t think of anyone more deserving. We are all indebted to Lou for all he has done for this industry”
Joram Robbs, the New Mexico Chile Association’s Executive Director, presented the award to Lou Biad at one of their chile dehydrating plants in Radium Springs, NM.
“The word that describes Lou Biad is passion. He is extremely passionate about the chile industry and that follows through with anything he does or puts his mind to,” said Dino Cervantes, Cervantes Enterprises. “Lou saw the need for the industry to work together to solve issues that threatened the industry, and his legacy lives on through this association. There could not be a better person to receive this award than Lou Biad”.
Mr. Biad turns 90 this year and he is still heavily involved in the chile industry through his sons who now operate the family business. Congratulations Mr. Lou Biad!
On the Grill
As we continue to wade through these uncharted waters of Covid-19 restrictions, the NMCA is here for you to help provide resources and a voice in Santa Fe. This information is on resources available and what the NMCA Board of Directors are doing to help protect our industry. Please reach out if you have any questions, need help with setting up a Covid-19 prevention plan for your operation, or have an input to the conversations we are having with the NM Environment Department (NMED).
Below are differences between the CDC and the NM Department of Health and the NM Environment Department.
Small Business Administration – Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) (federal)
New Mexico is one of the first states to be approved for the SBA’s $50 billion disaster loan assistance program. Disaster loan assistance will be available for businesses in all 33 counties. Press release issued 3/17/20.
Chile Association Members,
Unemployment Insurance Benefits Expand for Covid-19
Eligibility for unemployment benefits extended to workers whose hours are reduced or who are laid off, including due to temporary business closures, because of Covid 19 public health emergency. Under a previously announced emergency provision to the Unemployment Insurance (UI) rules, the work search requirement for affected workers has been waived for up to four weeks by the Department of Workforce Solutions. This allows employees at businesses that close temporarily to access benefits without having to search for new position while they wait for their employers to restart operations. Online by going to the New Mexico Workforce Solutions Connection Online System at www.jobs.state.nm.us by phone at 1-877-664-6984.
Chile producers interested in reducing hand-weeding costs learned about this camera-guided cultivator equipped with with both close cultivation tools and in-row finger weeders in chile peppers, as demonstrated by Ed Curry and the University of Arizona (Drs. Bill McCloskey and Mark Siemens) in collaboration with manufacturer, K.U.L.T. Kress, and Keithly-Williams (Yuma).
The New Mexico Chile Association (NMCA) and Western Growers (WG) have announced a strategic collaboration between their respective associations. The two groups have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that allows them to coordinate on business matters and policy issues of mutual interest. Additionally, the MOU gives New Mexico chile growers access to a host of WG member benefits, such as informational webinars, H-2A labor services, transportation services and expertise in trade and commodity services.