New Mexico’s chile worker shortage prompts state to provide $5M

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – New Mexico is now planning to provide millions of dollars to help local farmers hire more workers.

Chile farmers are facing a big staffing problem right as harvest season begins.

"We used to run about 15 guys, but now we’re down to about seven," said Mario Rosales, owner of Rosales Farms.

Rosales said the labor shortage facing farmers across New Mexico could mean paying more for a bag of fresh roasted green chile.

"It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be tough. The prices are going up. The prices of everything are going up and the price of chile is going to go up also quite a bit, actually probably maybe 20%,” he said.

Lt. Gov. Howie Morales announced that $5 million will be distributed to help farmers.

"This 5 million will go a long way to provide incentives for hourly wages and to assist our industry," Morales said.

Details of how those dollars are going to be distributed are still being worked out.

Meanwhile, Morales said the state is also working on long-term solutions to address the labor shortage.

"The reality of it is this has been years in the making, even before there was COVID, even before unemployment benefits were available, the workforce shortage has been there in this industry for many years," he said.

Chile farmers like Rosales are hoping they get the help they need this season.

"The chile’s already set. It’s there, and it’s going to be getting ready to pick,” Rosales said.