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Agrifood Governance

Overview

Agrifood governance drives the viability of farms, the expansion of local foodshed economics, fair trade, healthy foods, poverty alleviation, eco-friendly agriculture and on. It is the major complement to the market. When weather disasters hit, the government helps farms and ranchers endure with emergency payments. When the price of a commodity plummets, the government tweaks the market with price supports. When civil society forces government agencies to take into account the quality of food children eat, the government begins to constrain the products the market can sell. The dreams come together in a change of ethics and concerns about agrifood inequities.

New Mexico’s agrifood governance needs reform to implement a local food economy and a fair trade state (see Dreams below). The concerned agencies have been siloed from each other and have a near impossible time coordinating value chains, creation of local markets, state procurement of food, health and nutrition protections and much more. Task Forces, Cabinets, Town Halls and advisory groups to the State have few teeth and have been discouraged from crafting legislation.

In addition, New Mexico needs more information about itself. There is, for instance, no collection of what foods are imported and which might have substitutions by local farmers and ranchers. New Mexico’s main universities and some tribal colleges are land grant institutions. One of the central goals was the teaching of agriculture. Today, agriculture has come to mean agribusiness. The “second track” of local and small farming and their value chains has been reduced to a miniscule part of the curriculum.

Finally, every consumer pays for food twice: first, at the checkout stand; second, through taxes. The spending of taxes on agrifood projects has been both immensely useful and destructive. Taxes have helped conserve erodible land. Taxes have also been used to subsidize poor nutrition in schools and emergency food banks. One dream is to re-allign taxes with a new moral agrifood economy.