House Bill 7 looks to develop, expand NMSU agriculture


Mitchell Allred

House Bill 7 aims to expand agriculture at NMSU.

House Bill 7, a product of New Mexico’s 54th legislature and sponsored by Rep. Micaela Cadena and Rep. Tomas Salazar, was signed into effect by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham on March 13 

House Bill 7 calls for the establishment of Centers of Excellence at four New Mexico higher education institutions: the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, San Juan College, New Mexico State University and the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center.  

Rep. Cadena stated that each Center of Excellence is intended to assemble a critical mass of experts to advance private and public opportunities in research and workforce development in fields considered relevant to the institution.  

This legislation signifies New Mexicos commitment to excellence in these areas and builds on decades of demonstrated leadership and collaboration in these fields,Cadena said. 

Cadena claimed that through House Bill 7, New Mexico is being positioned as a model state that leverages both private and public investments in research and workforce development to advance prominent issues in New Mexico and across the country. 

House Bill 7 calls for the Center of Excellence at NMSU to work towards the development, expansion and innovation of sustainable agricultural industries. According to NMSUs Center of Excellence on Sustainable Food and Agricultural Systems, New Mexicos agricultural industry contributes nearly $3 billion to the states economy.  

Natalie P. Goldberg, Ph.D., serves as the Interim Associate Dean and Director of the Agricultural Experiment Station, a research unit located within the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.

The AES conducts and supports research in agricultural economic development, the management and protection of natural resources, agricultural profitability and more. 

Goldberg stated that New Mexico produces a great deal of raw agricultural products that are eventually shipped out of state for processing in order to turn them into consumable items. 

The aspect we want to grow in most is food production. We are shipping our profitability to other states. We want to build those processing industries within the state to grow the food and agricultural system for New Mexico,Goldberg said. 

Goldberg stated that House Bill 7 recognizes the effort that NMSU has been contributing greatly to for decades to develop sustainable agricultural systems in New Mexico and the enhanced capacity available through resource partnerships.  

House Bill 7 permits said Centers of Excellence to collaborate and form partnerships amongst one another, as well as with outside sources. Goldberg acknowledged possible collaborations with industry partners, agencies and non-profits.  

Goldberg discussed five possible areas of expanding development and research in accordance with the goals outlined by House Bill 7. The first program involving nutraceuticals and functional foods is proposed to center its research on the development of products healthier for ones diet and essential to the maintenance of good health.   

The second program seeks to develop specialty markets for meat and produce, thereby keeping the processing of raw agricultural products in-state and providing niche markets for producers and processors so that profitability may be kept within the state. The third program proposes the development of a food safety program and would involve the collaboration of several NMSU colleges, including Health and Social Services.  

In regards to the fourth program, Goldberg emphasized the versatility of hemp and cited the 2018 Farm Bill, which permits the production of industrialized hemp. 

No other crop in New Mexico has the versatility and potential that hemp has. Hemp helps improve fibers and food production, can be used in rotation with other crops and can even be added to materials that allow tire manufacturers to use less petroleum,Goldberg said.  

In response to NMSUs role in sustainable agricultural industries, Rep. Cadena said that for decades, NMSU has been a national leader in in agricultural research, technology and economics. 

In partnership with the New Mexico Department of Agriculture and others, NMSU will work towards building out resources and strategies needed for sustainable agriculture in our state and world,Rep. Cadena said.

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