NM's Organic Industry Grows, But Still Minuscule

It's a mantra you hear constantly from those who love everything organic: There must be more locally-grown organic veggies in our co-ops and grocery stores in Albuquerque and throughout the state.

While that makes for a good soundbite, it's ignorant of facts and reality. And that reality is that in the scheme of things, there are a minuscule amount of organically grown anything in the state.

The total value of certified organic agricultural products sold by New Mexico's farmers last year was $45 million, up from $32.1 million in 2015, and a 40 percent increase. But put another way, that comes out to 0.048 percent of the state's $92 billion economy.

So if you're looking to find mountains of locally grown organic veggies in the state, you wont.

That's because there were only 182 acres of U.S. Department of Agriculture certified organic cropland on which vegetables were grown in the state last year. That acreage produced $2 million worth of veggies, according to the U.S. DA's 2016 Survey of Organic Farming that was released in September.

Nationally, sales of organic products surged by 23 percent in 2016, to $7.6 billion from $6.2 billion the previous year. New Mexico's sales represent 0.6 percent of all organic sales.

California was the nation's biggest organic producer, accounting for $2.9 billion in sales, or 39 percent of all U.S. sales.

So why won't you find mountains of locally grown certified organic veggies in New Mexico?

Because the state's three largest largest organic products are hay and cattle.

Hay accounted for $5.8 million in the state's organic sales last year, while cattle accounted for $3.1 million.

There were 75 certified organic farms in the state in 2016 for a total of 94,143 acres. Of that acreage, 30,480 acres were for cropland and 63,663 were pastureland.

All crops in the state - including veggies, grains, fruits and nuts - accounted for $9.3 million of the state's organic sales last year.

Here are some stats from the USDA's survey:

Crop Acreage Production Value

Garlic 4 acres 22,800 pounds, $49,918

Bell peppers 10 acres 44,300 pounds, $27,512

Lettuce 3 acres 26,700 pounds, $28,688

Squash 10 acres 94,700 pounds $60,938

Tomatoes 8 acres NA $75,168

Berries 20 acres NA $143,393

Pecans 71 acres 129,741 pounds $427,085

Apples 38 acres 686,135 pounds $234,982

* Other veggies 113 acres 749,100 pounds $1.5 million

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