State ranks seventh in dairy product sales

CNJ staff

LAS CRUCES — New Mexico ranks seventh nationally in dairy product sales, with dairies adding more than $730 million to the state’s economy, according to a New Mexico State University agricultural economist.

“Dollar for dollar, dairy is one of our big players,” said Ereney Hadjigeorgalis, an assistant professor in NMSU’s agricultural economics department. “It is the top agricultural contributor to the New Mexican economy, accounting for 37 percent of total agricultural cash receipts.”

That rise to the top has accelerated since the turn of the century. From 2000 to 2004, New Mexico milk production has rocketed 28 percent, thanks to increases in both cow numbers and production per cow, she said in a news release from NMSU.

“We’re the nation’s fastest-growing milk-producing state,” Hadjigeorgalis said. Her findings are published in a newly released NMSU technical report titled, “The U.S. Dairy Industry and International Trade in Dairy Products.”

Two primary factors are driving this growth: excellent environmental conditions, especially on New Mexico’s eastern side near Clovis and Portales, and a restrictive regulatory atmosphere in California that is pushing new operations to New Mexico, the release said.

“Dairy cows like New Mexico,” said Jim Libbin, an agricultural economist with NMSU’s Agricultural Experiment Station. “They produce very well under our growing conditions.”

A bigger factor, though, has been a lack of elbow room in California, the news release reported. “Virtually all our expansion has been California dairies selling out because they weren’t able to expand as they wanted,” he said. “Also, California’s regulatory regulations have put the squeeze on dairies there.”