The New Mexico chile is the heart and soul of our state’s culture and is the state’s iconic agricultural commodity. During the 1990s, the New Mexico chile harvest hovered over 30,000 acres, but, fast forward to 2020, and that acreage has drastically decreased to only 8,500 acres.
According to the USDA’s Agricultural Statistics Service, New Mexico growers produced 68,000 tons of chile with
79 percent being sold for processing and 21 percent sold on the fresh market in 2020. Those involved in our industry are responsible for the creation of 4,500 jobs and contribute
$450 million to our state’s economy, however, they are faced with several issues that are leading to our state’s signature crop being grown elsewhere.
Due to the increase in expenses, New Mexico farmers are planning to increase their sale prices by 13 percent to
20 percent to processors in 2022 and are expecting to increase direct retail sale prices on fresh green chile products. These increased prices will trickle down to the consumer. This leaves consumers in a difficult situation of deciding to pay more for New Mexico grown chile or choose chile grown and harvested in Mexico.
What is causing this increase in consumer prices? Increased expenditures to grow, harvest and process New Mexican chile. Our farmers are hit from every angle of increased costs of production, including a 50 percent increase in fuel prices, doubling of fertilizer prices and overburdensome food safety requirements, to name a few. These issues are exacerbated with labor shortages created during the coronavirus pandemic, and simply paying laborers more in wages will not solve this labor shortage. It is simply more expensive and troublesome to harvest New Mexico chile.
New Mexico processors are also feeling the effects of recent policies and are forced to increase their prices, doubling down on the price increase to consumers. Processors are seeing double-digit increases in packaging materials, 25 percent increase in labor expenses in 2021 (when labor was available), energy expenditures have doubled and freight expenses are continuing to rise with no end in sight.
Our industry cannot sustain new environmental regulations or policies that increase the cost of doing business in New Mexico. Our members strive to produce and process the world’s greatest chile while always considering the cost of their products to consumers, however, we are at a tipping point. Continued over-regulatory policies at the state and federal levels will result in our farmers harvesting less chile, forcing our processors to purchase chile in Mexico. Our New Mexico chile industry is worth saving, but we need policies that allow our farmers to do what they do best — farm. We need policies that allow our processing businesses to grow and provide New Mexico chile products that are affordable for consumers.
The COVID-19 pandemic has posed a number of significant challenges to the New Mexico agricultural
industry, especially with the unprecedented labor shortages presently faced by New Mexico chile
growers and processors. Like many fruits and vegetable crops, availability and timeliness of chile
harvest and processing labor is especially critical.
In response, the State of New Mexico is providing financial assistance to the New Mexico chile industry
utilizing $5 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. These funds will be administered by
the New Mexico Department of Agriculture (NMDA). The intent of CLIP is to support both the chile
farmers and chile processors in their effort to incentivize hiring and retention of the seasonal workforce
necessary to harvest and process the 2021 New Mexico chile crop.
Download the applications by clicking on the boxes below.
According to the New Mexico Chile Association (NMCA), the chile industry typically employs a total
seasonal workforce of 3,000 workers between the farm and the processor. At present, the industry is
facing a 45% labor shortage, or 1,350 seasonal employees.
According to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) and the NMDA, total
harvested chile acreage in New Mexico was 8,500 acres or 68,000 tons, and the total value was
approximately $51.8 million in 2020. NMCA reports that over 60% of the harvested acres are picked by
According to the May 2021 report from USDA Economics, Statistics and Marketing Information
System, farmers paid an average of $15.23/hour. NMCA reports the average wage paid is approximately
$15.00/hour and the average seasonal per-ton harvest rate to a contractor is $150 per ton.
Based on the data, and industry input, this program is designed to incentivize labor needed by offering
chile growers and processors the ability to attract and retain chile harvest workers and chile processing
employees of the New Mexico chile crop throughout the 2021 chile season (August to October).
CLIP is available to NM Chile Growers and NM Chile Processors and is subject to ARPA funding availability.
CLIP aims to assist the chile manufacturing industry in its efforts to incentivize the recruitment and/or
retention of the seasonal labor workforce needed throughout the 2021 chile harvest season and to
supplement those added staffing costs.
Industry data indicates that the chile processing sector typically employs approximately 1,700 workers
and is presently 700 employees short of being fully-staffed.
Processors may submit CLIP reimbursement applications and supporting documentation in person to
the NMDA state office at 3190 S. Espina in Las Cruces, via mail to MSC 3189 PO Box 30005, Las
Cruces, NM 88003-8005, or via email to email@example.com. CLIP information and claim forms may
be found at the NMDA website at www.nmda.nmsu.edu.
Processors Applying for CLIP:
Download the applications by clicking on the boxes below.
The New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions (NMDWS) is offering a return-to-work incentive payment to New Mexico Unemployment Insurance (UI) recipients. Individuals who accept employment between July 4th and July 31st, 2021 and retain the employment through August 28, 2021 are eligible to receive up to $1,000 from the NMDWS. Individuals are only eligible to receive the stimulus payment if they forfeit their Unemployment Insurance and retain their employment through August 28th, 2021.
The state program will also help with different costs associated with returning to work such as childcare, transportation, and other living costs that stem from reducing Unemployment Insurance following the report in income. Costs associated with returning to work can vary depending on the individual.
Beginning on July 4th, 2021 if you were currently receiving Unemployment Insurance and report to the NMDWS that you received employment you will receive a one time payment of $1,000 if you still have the same job as of August 28th, 2021. The support payment will be adjusted depending on your start date.
The claimant will not receive payment after August 28th, 2021 if they file for Unemployment within the period. Applications can report their new employment during the weekly certification within the New Mexico Unemployment Tax & Claims System. More information can be found here Return-to-Work Support Payment (state.nm.us)
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).