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Food Systems Green Jobs

Overview

In New Mexico, 16% of all jobs are farm-related, which translates into over 147,000 jobs. (About 32,000 are farm operators and 84,000 work in agricultural processing. The remainder of the jobs in the food services industries and government-related jobs.) According to a report requested by DNM, if 25% of the food produced in New Mexico was consumed in New Mexico, then 10,000 new jobs would be created — about 15% more jobs in the agrifood sector. The Shuman Report forecasts 17% new jobs in forage and crop farms; 18% from livestock, game and fish; and 65% from food manufacturing, distribution, retail and restaurants. Not all these jobs would be “green” agrifood jobs but the dream is that most could be.

New Mexico is well poised to develop green jobs in the agrifood sector. The state’s strong tradition of small farms is an asset in our green economy. Many of our farms and ranches have never converted to, or relied upon, the extensive use of petroleum-based fertilizers and toxic pesticides. Their proximity to population centers also provides an opportunity for direct sales to consumers. Commodity crops with large subsidies do not dominate the agricultural food economy. There is, of course, a long tradition of local cultivars or land races and unique cuisines.

Because the food system is so specific (crop or meat specific) and so complex, it is not always easy to define green jobs in the agrifood sector. The Tables show many examples at each stage of the value chain. Organic farming and ranching, grass-fed beef and other livestock, localizing food distribution to save on transport gas, powering the farm with solar and wind, providing habitat for sensitive species, carbon-sequestration, soil and wind erosion control are typical. The questions: How to compensate farmers and ranchers for providing these ecological services? How to train ranchers and farmers and the support eco-services to increase green employment. (Certain biofuels such as bio-diesel algae cultivation can be considered within green ag jobs. See DNM energy.)

Hopefully food-system related jobs will be new job types. These new jobs add more jobs to the economy. Most green agrifood jobs will be transformed, refined or substitute jobs such as changing from petro-based to organic farming or from a predominantly national to local distribution system or changing banks to offer “green-lined” loans for sustainable ag. Transforming jobs does not create new jobs. They change the nature of the occupation to make them more healthy and eco-friendly. Some new imported jobs will be necessary for specialty crops or specialty work in areas such as multi-species slaughtering or new university level experts. There may also be fewer jobs as food system jobs disappear either from loss of farming, water, land or new regulations about the sustainable food system.