Agriculture & Horticulture
Our county's agriculture must remain competitive within local, national and even international markets. This requires a continuous flow of appropriate technology addressing local needs within New Mexico. Our Extension program works to maintain and strengthen programs that address these needs. Water is one of the most important limiting resources for our county's agriculture. All aspects of water use affect agricultural efficiency and profitability. Water management will become more critical as water demands for urbanization and industrialization increase
Environmental problems are here, as well as Statewide; however I think we are a little unique with our smaller farmers and ranchers. If fertilizer costs money up front, most don't use it, same with medications or growth type pharmaceuticals for cattle or sheep. If it's money up front most don't use it. A great many of our farmers are not licensed for restricted use products and the same goes for most small ranchers. The septic tank water problems are bad in the area but that's not our agriculturist's, it's people who wanted out of town and domestic wells and septic tanks or open cesspools were put on the same side of the house. Houses were put close together with a domestic well and a septic tank between each place. That kind of planning always ends with problems.
Lea County has varying types of terrain and varying soil types, but most of the County receives its water from the same aquifer. Lea County has to worry about contamination from oil, dairies and fertilizers like every other County, but we have lots of unplugged water wells abandoned, which could be the largest source of contamination.
Lea County has around 24,000 to 25,000 head of beef cows. This has slightly increased with the rains of 2004 and 2005. Also, there is approximately 30,000 head of dairy cows on the fourteen dairies in the county. There is somewhere around 2200 head of sheep. Even with the recent year and half of rainfall the county is becoming extremely dry, evident by the recent grass fires at the start of 2006.
Many producers are utilizing improved management practices and this will lead to increased profitability due to producing a safer food source. These improved practices have been shown and will continue to be discussed and demonstrated. Many producers are following these practices and many will be forced to follow or go out of business.