Extreme drought pushes local farmers to get creative to water crops

New Mexico News

LEMITAR, N.M. (KRQE)– The Rio Grande is expected to be in extreme drought this year, creating tough conditions for local farmers and putting New Mexico‘s beloved chile in danger. “It’s gonna be a tough year because we are out of water,” said Glen Duggins, a chile farmer out in Socorro County.

The dry conditions are forcing farmers to get creative in order to bring in a good crop, no matter the price. “Chile is our prized possession in New Mexico and it’s an industry that’s in trouble,” said Duggins.

Pumps run on his farm 24/7 creating some pretty hefty electric bills every month. Even with the pumps, it’s still not enough for a full crop of chiles to be planted. Some will have to be transplanted.

“By transplanting, we’ll save about two irrigations and so we’re thinking we’re making the right choice,” said Duggins. While it gets pricey, some farmers don’t even have that option.

“I’m lucky enough that I can probably take care of my farm with pump water most people can’t,” said Duggins. Duggins has never had to rely so heavily on pumps before. Natural water sources are a better match for crops.

“There’s problems with pumps, they usually pump more salt than what we have in the river,” said Duggins. With COVID-19 and the drought, this isn’t just two challenging years back-to-back.

“The year before COVID we got hailed out and lost everything that we had in the chile, almost everything,” said Duggins. This makes it even more important to buy locally grown in order to keep farms running.

“It’s very important that people know to buy their produce from their neighbors, from home, a New Mexico certified product,” said Duggins.

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