Chilean work incentive program suspended following court ruling

In August, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham approved the use of $ 5 million in federal COVID relief funds to fund the new program. The Supreme Court ruled that it did not have the power to decide how these funds were spent.

The program was designed to help Chilean farmers recruit more workers amid a national labor shortage. The New Mexico Chile Association said $ 2.8 million had been spent to make more than 3,200 works before the program was suspended. Industry leaders fear the remaining $ 2.2 million will be spent elsewhere, forcing Chilean farmers to pay their new workers out of pocket.

“You know, with this big cut in the budgets of growers, who are already working on such tight margins, we would expect a decrease in the acres planted due to this financial blow,” said Travis Day, director of New Mexico Chile. Association. .

The association said there were around 8,500 acres of Chile planted in 2020. Without more financial support, Chilean farmers could be forced to reduce their acreage next year.

“We’re going to cut back a bit, we’re going to change a bit, we’re not going to have that many different varieties,” Duggins said.

New Mexico Secretary of Agriculture Jeff Witte said this labor crisis could force Chilean industry to adapt.

“There will always be a need for a workforce in agriculture, but we will have to consider a change in workforce to really move forward in the future,” Witte said.

He said new technology is being developed to mechanize the process of picking chili. He said these new machines will create better, well-paying jobs that will be more attractive to workers.

Chilean farmers say this year’s harvest is unlikely to be affected, but they can’t afford to wait for new technologies to solve the labor shortage.

“We’re going to harvest it, of course we are, we have to do it, and we have to do it right away, whatever the state, whatever they do. The impact will be the net result of the farmer. If he can “To make money he’s not going to plant it anymore, I mean, that’s where it’s going,” Duggins said.

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