NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – It has been a tough few years for getting food from farms to dinner tables. According to a new report, New Mexico’s agriculture and cattle industries are making a comeback after facing hardships the last few years.

“Even though we have a lot of challenges we seem to persevere,” said President of New Mexico Cattle Growers Association, Loren Patterson. It takes patience, science, and an ability to adapt to the times to be a farmer or a rancher. Patterson said the past few years, especially with the pandemic, showed how resilient the industry can be.

“We’ve had supply chain issues. We had too many live animals that couldn’t be processed at one time. Our input costs went through the roof,” said Patterson. National Agriculture groups released their annual Feeding the Economy report Tuesday showing the industry now contributes more than $8 trillion to the U.S. economy per year. That’s a 22% increase since 2019 even with challenges due to the pandemic. The New Mexico Department of Agriculture said our state is almost back to pre-pandemic levels.

“There was a lot of improvement of what we saw in New Mexico. I think the big thing is when we look at jobs, at the economic impact, we look at our exports… its a good sign,” said Director of Public Affairs, New Mexico Department of Agriculture, Kristie Garcia.

In New Mexico, the agriculture sector now contributes more than $40 billion dollars to the economy annually. The report shows the industry provided almost 260,000 jobs with more than $11 billion in wages in the last year. The average age of the farmer and rancher in our state is almost 60 years old. Although this is concerning to the industry, the Department of Agriculture mentioned technology now being used to grow food may attract younger farmers and ranchers. “There are so many things around agriculture to entice the younger generations to be involved in that,” said Garcia.

Every other year, New Mexico Department of Agriculture hosts “Agrifuture,” a conference aimed at inspiring the next generation or farmers and ranchers. New Mexico production ranks number 1 in chile, 2 in pecan and 5 in onions. The report shows the industry in our state exported $275 million in goods.