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NM chile production down 10 percent in 2017

Production of New Mexico's signature crop – chiles – fell by 10 percent in 2017, according to figures released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Chile production fell to 125.4 million pounds, down from 132.9 million pounds in 2016. The number of acres harvested fell by 12.6 percent, to 7,600 acres last year from 8,700 acres in 2016.

New Mexico chile production has been on the decline since 1994 when the North American Free Trade Agreement took effect and decimated the industry. In 1992, state farmers harvested 34,500 acres of chile. That fell to 16,200 acres in 1999 and then to 7,600 acres last year.

Despite the decline in production, New Mexico is the nation's second-largest chile producer, and accounts from around 29 percent of all chile grown in the nation. California is the leading producer and grows 65 percent of the chile produced in the U.S.

Longino Bustillos, with the USDA's National Agriculture Statistics Service, said chile production tends to fluctuate from year-to-year as farmers rotate crops and grow other vegetables.

New Mexico harvested 14,700 acres of vegetables in 2017, down 1 percent from 14,800 acres harvested in 2016, according to the Mountain Regional Field Office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service, USDA. The state produced 6.08 million hundredweight (cwt) of total vegetables in 2017. The value of utilized vegetable production decreased to $129.04 million in 2017, from $145.49 million in 2016.

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