Photo: New Mexico Chile and Onion Farms Facing Labor Shortage
With chile and onion harvesting season rapidly approaching for New Mexico farmers, they are facing a problem that could result in the price of the produce skyrocketing.
President of Workonnection, an El Paso non-profit farmworker employment agency, Jaime Campos says that a labor shortage in New Mexico threatens the farmer’s livelihood. However, Campos is working to get the U.S. Department of Labor to issue temporary work visas for additional farmworkers.
“In the past, farms used undocumented workers, but now the laws are strict and the penalties high,” Campos said.
As a result of the labor shortage, the number of acres used for chile growing in New Mexico is now just 9,000 acres, while in the early 1990s is was at 30,000 acres.
Campos is hoping that with the additional temporary visas, more farmworkers in the state will result in farms growing chile again, while others are allowed to expand, thus stimulating the economy.
If more workers are not added, chile experts say its availability could be reduced, resulting in consumers have to pay significantly more for them.