Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs at the USDA, Edward Avalos, makes a stop in Roswell, Monday. (Courtesy Photo)
Ed Avalos, under secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs at the United States Department of Agriculture, made a stop in Roswell to visit the Sales Barn Livestock Auction on Monday.
Avalos is visiting southern New Mexico as part of a whirlwind tour. He gave the keynote address to the New Mexico Wool Growers in Ruidoso to, “let them know what we are doing in Washington to help them.”
He said the USDA has made tough choices the past few years with budget cuts. “We’re doing more with less money. We’ve reduced our workforce by 7,000,”he said.
Avalos also hopes to have a dialogue with a number of specialty crop producers and businesses on June 26 and 27 to highlight the importance of these crops to the rural economy and rural communities. Specialty crops include onions, green chiles and pecans. Additionally, Avalos will visit area farms and orchards to learn of their concerns.
The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service provides support for these growers and producers through the Specialty Crop Block Grant which is distributed in partnership with the New Mexico Department of Agriculture.
The Specialty Crop Block Grant program has funded more than 30 projects in New Mexico since 2008, providing more than $450,000 in 2011.
The USDA assists if they find a particular market is soft by doing what is known as a “bonus buy.” Avalos cited an example when sheep prices were down, the government purchased sheep and distributed the mutton for school lunch programs.
According to Avalos, the funds go into an account and then the grants distribute the money to industry organizations, nonprofit organizations, businesses and individuals. He recommended that anyone interested in applying for the grants check the American Sheep Industry Association Website.
A native of New Mexico, Avalos expressed his sympathy to farmers and growers. “We are going through a serious drought with increased losses for the producer. We are going to get through it. I grew up on a farm in Mesilla valley. In rural American you develop work ethic and good values. We are living in tough times. If you work hard and follow the rules, stick to theses values, you will be successful.”
His goals includes promoting New Mexico green chiles, and he admitted he was glad to get back to the state where they have the best chiles.
The USDA has partnered with the New Mexico Department of Agriculture and producers to coordinate booths at trade shows. Surveys of participants indicated that New Mexico producers saw an increase in new sales with such crops as onions, watermelons, pumpkins, green chile, dried red chile, pecans, potatoes, and pinto beans.