Gov. Lujan Grisham announces pilot Chile Labor Incentive Program

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SANTA FE, N.M. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced on Thursday the New Mexico Department of Agriculture will commit to a $5 million pilot wage supplement program for the chile industry.

The Chile Labor Incentive Program will provide funding for chile growers, labor contractors and processors on a first-come, first-served basis. The funds will be used to incentivize hiring and retention and to supplement existing and prospective workers’ wages, up to a maximum of $19.50 per hour.

Program funding will come from the state’s share of federal stimulus distributed through the American Rescue Plan.

The pilot program is a response to concerns about a harvest labor shortage and subsequently higher prices. Three Republican state legislators sent a letter on Aug. 2 to Gov. Lujan Grisham expressing these concerns.

District 35 Senator Crystal Diamond, the letter’s co-author, released a statement in response to the Governor’s announcement Thursday:

“We appreciate the Governor’s response to our letter and her attention to the labor shortage for our state’s signature crop. While we cannot spend our way out of this problem, this temporary aid will help our family farms in desperate need of workers. Our agriculture industry is the backbone of our state’s economy, and for every community and family that relies on a strong chile harvest, this wage program represents a small step toward recovery.”

According to the New Mexico Chile Association, the industry is lacking up to 1,350 seasonal employees for this year’s harvest. In 2020, there was a 40% drop in harvest workers.