Category Archives: NMDA News and Hot Topics

Two NMDA staffers recognized for exemplary service to department, New Mexico agriculture

(LAS CRUCES, N.M.) – New Mexico Department of Agriculture (NMDA) has recognized two employees for going above and beyond in contributing to the department’s service to New Mexico and its citizens.

NMDA officials presented the department’s Distinguished Service Awards for 2014 to Elaine Padilla and Cristina Urban.  New Mexico Secretary of Agriculture Jeff Witte, along with NMDA Deputy Director Anthony Parra and NMSU Provost Dan Howard, recognized the two staff members for their efforts at the department’s annual conference last week.

“Elaine and Cristina exemplify what makes NMDA a great agency and a great place to work,” Witte said.  “Both are team players, and their goal is the success of the programs they work on, all of which support New Mexico agriculture and New Mexicans alike.”

From her post in NMDA’s Marketing and Development Division, Elaine Padilla provides support to the state’s Organic Program, which offers organic certification and support to farmers, ranchers, and food processors across the state.  Elaine also supports NMDA’s Fruit & Vegetable Inspection Program, whose staff grade the quality of produce shipped in the state, and the Market News Program, whose staff prepare reports about the state’s livestock and crops markets under a cooperative agreement with USDA.

Applying her accounting background in NMDA’s Business Support Services section, Cristina Urban monitors the paperwork for grants that come through NMDA, many of which are passed through to groups involved in, for instance, expanding the foreign and domestic marketing of New Mexico agricultural products.  She also oversees the department’s procurement card purchases, a critical role within any taxpayer-funded agency.

Witte said that both Padilla and Urban are good examples of what NMDA’s 140-person staff does throughout the state to support New Mexico agriculture and to protect consumers.

NMDA recognizes two New Mexicans for decades of contributions to state’s agricultural community

Bob Porter, Frank DuBois each receive Secretary’s Legacy Award

(LAS CRUCES, N.M.) – New Mexico Secretary of Agriculture Jeff Witte has awarded the 2014 Secretary’s Legacy Award to two people who once led agricultural organizations within New Mexico.

The Secretary’s Legacy Award recognize those who have made a lifetime of contributions to New Mexico agriculture.  This year, Witte named two recipients, Bob Porter and Frank DuBois, during NMDA’s annual conference.  Porter was on hand to accept his award, while seasonal flu kept DuBois from being able to attend. 

“Bob Porter and Frank DuBois are legends within New Mexico agriculture,” Witte said.  “Both have lived some interesting times in agriculture.”

Porter grew up on a cotton and alfalfa farm in Salem, N.M., where his father at one time utilized the labor of German POWs stationed in nearby Hatch.  He then came to what’s now New Mexico State University (NMSU) to study agriculture and play Aggie basketball.  After a tour of military duty, Porter went to work for the Doña Ana County Farm Bureau.  There, he administered the state’s largest bracero program, which ended when farmers began to mechanize.  He later went on to lead the New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau for more than a dozen years.  Porter helped establish several scholarships at NMSU, both for students in plant and environmental sciences and for student-athletes on the Aggies men’s basketball team.  He is married to Laura; his daughter Brenda is also very involved in the NMSU community.

DuBois served as the New Mexico Secretary of Agriculture under four governors for 15 years, from 1988 to 2003.  He worked his way up at the department from field inspector to agricultural policy specialist to assistant director and finally to director/secretary.  He also served as a legislative assistant in the U.S. Senate and as Deputy Assistant Secretary with the Interior Department.  DuBois has founded a couple of awards: the Rounders Award recognizes New Mexicans whose work contributes to Western culture; and the DuBois Rodeo Scholarship has helped NMSU build a strong program around its rodeo athletes.  Having grown up on a ranch in Corona, Frank himself competed as a rodeo athlete for years.  After retiring from NMDA, he started up a blog called The Westerner.  In the more than 10 years since, DuBois has been blogging about The West in general, and property rights, water rights, and livestock grazing in particular.  Frank is married to Sharon, and they have two kids and several grandkids.

Witte said the contributions that both Porter and DuBois have helped New Mexico agriculture become the strong community it is.  The sale of raw agricultural commodities grown in New Mexico contributes more than $4 billion a year to the state’s economy.  That figure becomes much higher when you consider the value that gets added to the system when, say, milk is processed into cheese and when chile is processed into enchilada sauce.

New Mexico farmers taking novel approaches amid drought, new data shows

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 2, 2014

Media contact: Longino Bustillos
New Mexico State Statistician
USDA-National Agricultural Statistics Service
575-522-6023
longino.bustillos@nass.usda.gov

Media contact: Katie Goetz
Public Information Officer
New Mexico Department of Agriculture
575-646-2804
kgoetz@nmda.nmsu.edu

USDA data released today completes picture first seen in February

(LAS CRUCES, N.M.) – Evenas the drought wears on, New Mexico’s agricultural community is diversifying in terms of the kinds of products it grows and in the way it sells its products, according to new federal data released today.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) revealed in the final results of the 2012 Agriculture Census that, in New Mexico:

  • The number of farms selling directly to their customers increased by 19 percent
  • The number of farms producing nursery, greenhouse, flowers, and sod increased 56 percent
  • New Mexico farmers are planting a wider variety of higher-value specialty crops like vegetables, pecans, and melons

 USDA’s last Agriculture Census was conducted in 2007.

 “The Census of Agriculture provides a wide range of demographic, economic, land, and crop and livestock production information that are only available every five years,” said New Mexico Statistician Longino Bustillos, whose NASS office in Las Cruces oversees outreach efforts, as well as data collection and interpretation, related to the Agriculture Census in New Mexico.

USDA defines a farm as “as any place that produced and sold, or normally would have sold, $1,000 or more of agricultural products during the Census year.”  In other words, USDA’s definition of “farms” includes farms, ranches, and other businesses selling agricultural products.

As expected, the 397 pages of New Mexico-specific data also bear the mark of the ongoing drought.  That fact was most noticeable in the 2012 inventories of beef and dairy cattle as compared to the 2007 inventories, as well as in the increased farm expenses such as livestock feed and farm inputs.  As a further reflection of the drought – and of increased Census participation among small farms – the average net cash income per farm dropped from $17,558 in 2007 to $9,501 in 2012.

Taken together, these data highlights suggest that farmers and ranchers are looking for ways to maximize their returns on less water by selling higher-value crops via a wider variety of channels.

“While these are challenging times in agriculture, it’s really interesting to see the shift in dynamic.  New Mexico producers are resilient and resourceful,” said New Mexico Secretary of Agriculture Jeff Witte.

Other highlights include that 97 percent of the state’s farms are family-owned.  On a national level, Dona Ana County ranks as the top county in pecan acreage; New Mexico ranks third behind only Texas and Georgia in pecan acreage per state.  Dona Ana, Luna, and Sierra rank in the top five counties in the nation in chile acreage.

The final Census results released today add detail to the portrait first outlined by preliminary data released in February.  Those results showed an increase in the number of farms, young farmers, minority farmers rising in New Mexico – news that was widely trumpeted across the state and the country.

Agriculture organizations and agencies are looking to build on the trend of increasing diversity by hosting a conference this month for beginning and future farmers, ranchers, and those looking to carve out other careers in agriculture. 

Conducted since 1840, the Census of Agriculture accounts for all U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them.  The data help farmers, ranchers, policymakers, agribusiness and a host of others make decisions for the future.

For more information about the Census, visit www.agcensus.usda.gov.  Click here for more information about and to register for the 2014 AgriFuture Educational Institute happening in Albuquerque, May 12-14.

New staffer helps NMDA make sure you get what you pay for at fuel pump


Petroleum inspector checks pumps, plus gas, diesel quality at filling stations

(LAS CRUCES, N.M.) – There’s a new face in southern New Mexico making sure you get what you pay for when you fill up your fuel tank.

You might have seen him at a gas station around town, pulling all sorts of unfamiliar-looking equipment from a white flatbed trailer hitched to a white pickup with New Mexico Department of Agriculture (NMDA) stickers on the doors.  You might have asked yourself: What in the world is he doing?

Lorenzo Mireles joined the Petroleum Standards program at NMDA earlier this year as a petroleum inspector.  The Petroleum Standards staff enforce New Mexico’s Petroleum Products Standards Act, which means that Mireles spends the bulk of his workday checking gasoline and diesel pumps, as well as the products they dispense, at filling stations in Doña Ana and Sierra counties. 

“The work Lorenzo and NMDA’s other petroleum inspectors across the state do, helps ensure fairness in our marketplace,” New Mexico Secretary of Agriculture Jeff Witte said.  “Regulating commercial fuel pumps and the gas and diesel they dispense creates a level playing field for both you when you fill up, as well as for the gas station.”

The Petroleum Standards program is responsible for inspecting all commercial fuel pumps in the state and ensuring the quality of gasoline and diesel (as well as kerosene, brake fluid, antifreeze, and lubricating oil).  The staff check to make sure that when the pump says it’s put a gallon of fuel into your tank, it’s pumped a true gallon.  They check to make sure that when the sticker tells you the gasoline you’re about to pump is 87 octane, that it proves at 87 octane and not a different quality.  The fuel samples that Mireles routinely collects are tested for quality at NMDA’s Petroleum Standards Laboratory (PSL), located at NMDA’s main office in Las Cruces.  

Fuel pumps found to be dispensing an inaccurate quality and/or quantity of fuel are placed out of service – you’ll see them covered with a bright yellow “out of order” plastic bag — until the issue is resolved by the station.  If you suspect the pump you filled up at is inaccurate in terms of quantity or quality, you may call NMDA’s Standards and Consumer Services division at 575-646-1616.

Another part of Mireles’ job is to inspect large scales, like the ones used to weigh livestock before they are sold – a measure to ensure fairness for livestock buyers and sellers alike.

Mireles earned his bachelor’s degree in biology, minoring in biochemistry, at NMSU.  He and his wife Hannah live in Las Cruces, where both grew up.  Mireles previously worked with at-risk youth via Youth Radio, a project funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

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NMDA encourages you to snap, share #felfie for National Agriculture Day, March 25

(LAS CRUCES, N.M.) – You won’t find #felfie in the dictionary, but you’re more than likely to find it online wherever farmers – as well as ranchers and others who work in agriculture – from around the globe are posting selfies.

If you’re still wondering what a #felfie is, just blend the words farmer and selfie, the now-ubiquitous self-portrait that’s often captured with a smartphone and shared via social media, like Facebook.

To celebrate National Agriculture Day, which this year falls on March 25, New Mexico Department of Agriculture (NMDA) is encouraging New Mexicans to join in the #felfie fun.

“Let’s show the world what New Mexico agriculture looks like,” said New Mexico Secretary of Agriculture Jeff Witte.  “And I don’t just mean those of us who work to produce agricultural items, but also those of us who enjoy the fruits of that labor.”

Witte’s inclusive approach to the #felfie campaign comes from the idea that whether you identify yourself as a farmer or rancher, strictly a food-lover, or somewhere in between, you – yes, YOU, the person reading this – are a part of agriculture.

“It’s as simple as this: When you eat, you’re involved in agriculture,” Witte said.  “Every morning when you put on your cotton socks…every time you write on a piece of paper…every time you buy flowers for a loved one – these routine activities make you a daily participant in agriculture.”

National Agriculture Day is a day to stop and measure your relationship to and reliance upon agriculture, making it the perfect day to snap and share a #felfie.

All you have to do to participate in the #felfie campaign is use your smartphone or camera to snap a selfie showing how you relate to agriculture, then upload the image to Facebook or another social media site with the hashtag #felfie.  Any image that involves you producing or consuming food or fiber qualifies as a #felfie:

  • Buying groceries, cooking, or eating
  • Planting peach trees in your backyard, pulling tomatoes from an indoor plant, or feeding your backyard chickens
  • Riding on your tractor or feeding your cattle

People will be able to call up the #felfie images online by simply searching for the term #felfie. 

To learn more about New Mexico agriculture, please visit NMDA at its website (www.nmda.nmsu.edu) or on Facebook (www.facebook.com/NMDepartmentofAg).

For more ideas on how you can celebrate National Ag Day, please visit www.agday.org.