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New Mexico's Huge Pecan Harvest, A Bright Spot During Severe Drought

PHOTO: New Mexico's huge pecan harvest is a bright spot as the state suffers through extreme drought conditions. Photo courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
PHOTO: New Mexico's huge pecan harvest is a bright spot as the state suffers through extreme drought conditions. Photo courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
March 31, 2014

LAS CRUCES, N.M. - New Mexico's huge pecan harvest is a bright spot in the agriculture industry as the state endures one of the worst droughts in its history. Phillip Arnold, president, New Mexico Pecan Growers Association, said last year's total harvest is about 75 million pounds, which may set a record high, and is up from an average year of around 60 million pounds.

A good monsoon season and Mother's Nature's rains at the right time last summer seemed to bless the pecan trees, Arnold explained.

"Basically, it was very timely moisture which helped produce this crop. Had we not had that at the very tail end of the season, more than likely we would have had a lot more quality issues, and the crop wouldn't have ultimately been as big as it ended up coming in at. We got very lucky," Arnold said.

Pecan trees planted years ago and now producing nuts also played a major role in the huge harvest. Pecan farmers in the Las Cruces area irrigate with ground water, which has been less affected by the severe drought.

In addition to a bumper crop, Arnold said pecan prices at around $1.85 per pound are quite a bit higher than previous years.

"In agriculture, you've got to have these good years every once in a while, because last year people lost money. The year before, in 2012, I know growers that lost money," he said.

Arnold, who runs his own pecan farm, said New Mexico produces some of the world's highest-quality pecans, which are exported all over the world. The Land of Enchantment is among the top states for pecan production. However, he said, if the drought continues much longer, pecan farmers will soon be hurting as much as the rest of the state's growers.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - NM