Expo reminder of agriculture’s importance

Portales reached a wonderful milestone last week in hosting its 20th New Mexico Ag Expo.

Officials estimated 3,000 people came through the gates of the Roosevelt County Fairgrounds to an event that celebrates the region’s agricultural industry and provides opportunity to enhance its growth.

More than 100 vendors, most from out of town, were on hand to boost Portales’ economy at its restaurants, gas stations and motels.

While it’s no secret the Ag Expo attendance and vendors have been higher (an estimated 4,000 visitors in 2007 and vendors numbering near 200 at times), the current Expo reminds us all of agriculture’s importance to the overall economy despite how tough the rural life has been lately due to drought and rising feed costs.

Chase Gentry, director of Clovis Industrial Development Corp., said he’s seen statistics indicating agriculture is responsible for 40 percent of Curry County’s economy. In Portales, he’s told that number is closer to 60 percent.

While statistics change annually, are subject to interpretation and can be skewed rather easily, here are some hard facts that show ag’s impact on eastern New Mexico:

• Curry County had more than $541 million in cash receipts for farm commodities in 2010, No. 1 in New Mexico.

• Longino Bustillos, deputy director of New Mexico Agricultural Statistics Services in Las Cruces, said Portales’ cash receipts for commodities exceeded $379 million in 2010, the most current year available.

This year, as in each of the past 20, Ag Expo’s focus remains the same: to provide training opportunities for producers. Seminar topics ranged from responsible horse ownership to cotton production, from global dairy markets to land conservation.

“Technologies in agriculture have changed drastically over the last 20 years,” Ag Expo Chairman Patrick Kircher said in the quarterly “Farm and Ranch” magazine.

“Our goal with the Ag Expo has always been to help our farmers and ranchers keep up with those changes both from a business standpoint and an education standpoint. I think we’ve done that pretty well.”

We offer congratulations to the Chamber for another successful Expo, and send our best wishes for at least 20 more.

Consumers don’t thank crop growers, milk producers and cattle ranchers enough. The Ag Expo provides a good reminder to do that every year.