Mar 31 2019

Let’s start with a celebration …

by Caren Cowan, Executive Director,
New Mexico Cattle Grower’s Association
Read this article & more in New Mexico Stockman Magazine

The 2019 Legislature is history and there are just a few days left for the Governor to sign, veto or pocket veto the 300-plus bills that made it to her desk. There were some wins for agriculture and the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association (NMCGA) that we will review, but first we need to celebrate THE best rally I have ever seen.

On March 12, after a highly successful trip to Washington, D.C. topped off with a phone conversation with President Trump, Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin and his merry band know as Cowboys for Trump (C4T) marched to the Roundhouse in Santa Fe. The media reported that there were some 90 men, women and children on horses, ponies and mules who rode from the Santa Fe Rodeo Grounds to the State Capitol complete with police escort.

The last leg of the ride was down Old Pecos Trail — a route traveled by other trailblazers. Following the riders were at least five pickups full of people. Nearly everyone mounted or in vehicles was carrying an American flag.

The intersection of Old Pecos Trail and Paseo de Peralta was closed in all directions as the riders streamed up the entrance to the Capitol all the way to the end of the trees in front of the building. There was a spontaneous chant of USA from the riders. It was a proud moment.

That pride continued as most of the riders dismounted and worked their way over to the north portico and where a podium and mic were waiting. The speaking portion of the event opened in cowboy style with a prayer, the Pledge and the National Anthem. Then there were several short speakers whose time was cut even shorter by rain and hail. Even with the hail coming down the event closed with a prayer. The riders had a fairly wet ride back to the rodeo grounds.

The rally didn’t focus on any single piece of legislation or issue but rather on many pending bills and constitutional rights. It drew the attention of many legislators and a multitude of lobbyists. One can fairly assume that there was impact on the final bills going through the Legislature.

A huge congratulations and a debt of gratitude is owned to the C4T riders and their whole crew.

The Year of Greed

Money was the main focus of the 2019 Legislature although there were tons of other hot topics. Going into the Session the State of New Mexico sat on one of the largest financial surpluses ever thanks to the more than $1 billion in revenue generated by the oil and gas industry.

There is a running battle over where all that money would go from day one. But one of the early introduced bills was a huge tax increase. While that increase seemed doomed and didn’t move until the end of the Session, it did make it through.

Part of the need for the measure arose from the need to make tax code changes due to the federal tax bill passed in 2018 and taking effect in 2019. This is an issue that is happening in neighboring states as well. The added state taxes are being tacked on to those bills as well.

The tug of war over HB 6 continued through the last night of the Legislature and into the final hours of Session. The original bill called for about $300 million of new taxes. One Senate version trimmed that number to about $11 million — which House sponsors of the bill said wasn’t worth the time to do. A compromise was reached at some number between the $11 and $300 million. One thing for certain is that vehicle registrations and renewals will be going up. HB 6 has been called the largest tax increase ever seen in New Mexico. Seems strange with an over $1 billion surplus, doesn’t it? Is this a sign of things to come?

There were numerous gun bills in this Session, and we can expect to see many of them again and more in the years to come. Only two measures were passed in this Session. One on background checks has been signed by the Governor. The other dealing with orders of protection and fire arms ownership is yet to be signed. Special thanks to Joe Culbertson who ran point for NMCGA and others on the gun issues.

There was over $15 million requested for soil conservation and watershed projects including the interest off a $150 million Ag & Natural Resources Trust fund. It appears that only about $375,000 was put into the budget, which is yet to be signed.

The late term abortion bill also didn’t make it through the body. This bill was explained as a measure to fix existing law in the event that there was federal action on the Supreme Court’s Roe vs Wade decision. Similar measures were introduced across the nation. The New York law has passed while others are awaiting actions.

The voluntary increase in the Beef Checkoff passed and was signed by the Governor early in the Session. We are awaiting rules on the measure from the Beef Council in the weeks and months to come.

Senator Pat Woods got a bill passed to undo an error in the Department of Transportation statutes passed in 2018 that took away state responsibility for fences and cattle guards along state highways. That bill is waiting for signature from the Governor as well.

An issue that didn’t get the direction that it needed is that of wild or feral horses. A State District Court ruling from Lincoln County has thrown who has purview of horses that are loose. There are several bills ranging from reasonable to way too far out there introduced and negotiated but none was able to make it to the Governor’s desk.

As a result, feral or wild horses will continue to pose a significant risk for motorists throughout New Mexico for the coming year.

The court case is currently being appealed. Hopefully the ruling on that case will come sooner rather than later.

These and other bills in this Session provide more proof that deal-making is not an appropriate way to work out solutions. Several “deals” were made with so-called wild horse advocates during the 60-day Session. Bit it didn’t matter if an agreement had been reached. It generally didn’t take very long for the negotiated bill to come up in committee or on one of the floors, only to have the agreed upon language stripped or more unnegotiated new amendments to be offered.

Legislators always want the various sides on an issue to come to the table and work something out. That certainly didn’t pay off this year and it will be difficult to move forward with unscrupulous groups and individuals in good faith.

All in all, the Session was a tough one, but NMCGA and its policies got by pretty well. Thanks to the bill readers, all the folks that read bills, made calls and sent emails in response to calls to action, and to the courageous representatives and senators on both sides of the isle that made the hard votes to protect all New Mexicans.

With the 2020 election all too close, these folks are going to need all the help we can give them, not only in campaign donations but in sending more folks to the House and Senate to support. Senators John Arthur Smith and Clemente Sanchez have already been named as targets in some circles. Please get involved NOW!!!

25 Percent of Mexicans Wolves Dead in 2019…

. . . comes at the hands of wolf officials. Thus far in 2019 four Mexican wolf deaths have been confirmed in Arizona and New Mexico, according to the Arizona Game & Fish Department. Two were found dead in New Mexico, along with one in Arizona. A fourth wolf died at the hands of wolf program employees who had captured it to replace a faulty radio collar.

I realize that my headline is a bit alarming… but it is true. One of the four dead wolves was killed by program officials. I am just using numbers the same way our detractors do.

Wolf proponents bent on getting rid of livestock grazing by any means necessary claim that wolf depredations by Mexican wolves are less than one-half percent based on US Department of Agriculture (USDA) generic national numbers.

Looking at U.S. Forest Service data available on their website, in the 2018 grazing season there were 16,161 active animal unit months (AUMs) in four ranger districts. Not all of those AUMs are in use. During that year Catron County Wolf Investigator Jess Carey confirmed 74 kills with eight probables.

The USDA Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) pays 60 to 65 percent of the value on confirmed losses and will pay for those missing on wolf losses. The program also pays only after the “normal” livestock loss of two percent. In 2018 LIP paid for 856 cows, calves and bulls who were confirmed dead or missing in the wolf area.

All of this works out to livestock losses at 5.7 percent, nearly three times what is considered normal for annual livestock losses. An NMCGA member computed all these numbers and it probably took a little while to get them all together.

It is a whole easier to use a non-applicable generic number to make your point.

Policy Development Reminder

Every so often it is worthwhile to revisit how the NMCGA develops the policy that guides the actions of the Association.

Policy starts with any NMCGA member who would like to bring an issue to the Association. At the December Annual Meeting or the Mid-Year Meeting in June there is the opportunity to bring an idea or resolution forward to the appropriate committee.

The committee will discuss it and then vote up or down. If the vote is up, the committee will take the item to the Board of Directors and membership. If the vote is down, the proponent retains the option of bringing the item to the Board and membership from the floor.

The Board and membership have the opportunity to again discuss the issue and take a majority rules vote. If the measure passes the policy is used by NMCGA leadership and staff to work on the issue. Neither leadership or staff has the ability or power to deviate from that policy if there is an expectation of continuing to hold their position or employment.

With the 2019 Mid-Year Meeting schedule for June 9 through 11 in Ruidoso, start planning now on any issues that you may want to bring up.      

Source: New Mexico Stockman, April 2018

Mar 01 2019

What Comes Next?

by Caren Cowan, Executive Director,
New Mexico Cattle Grower’s Association
Read this article & more in New Mexico Stockman Magazine

With just over two weeks left in the 2019 New Mexico Legislature, there is plenty of uncertainty. There seems to be no stopping some of the more frightening bills. It is critically important that everyone respond to calls to action in coming days.

Numerous measures will dramatically impact nearly all the sectors of the economy that support the state, the nation and most importantly to us, rural economies. Indeed, New Mexico In Depth, a more liberal news outlet, recently ran a story entitled “Life After Coal: San Juan Miners, Economists Wonder What’s Next” by Elizabeth Miller.

It is a tale of a miner’s journey to the Roundhouse to lobby on behalf of his job and the numerous others in his region. He faces the end of his job sometime before the San Juan Generating Station shuts down in 2022.

According to the article, PNM announced plans to close the plant well before its anticipated decommissioning date of 2053, ostensibly because coal-fired power is no longer cost-effective. Nor will that plant allow PNM to comply with increased renewable power requirements lawmakers are contemplating.

Whether PNM replaces coal with a natural gas plant or goes all-in on solar, both see major job losses as they move from construction to maintenance. The plant’s closure is expected to cost 450 jobs, with substantial ripple effects. San Juan County, San Juan Community College and the Central Consolidated School District are projected to lose nearly $9 million in property tax revenue.

Already, the Farmington area has weathered unemployment rates at or above 10 percent in the last decade. Locals report a sluggish home market and friends underwater in their mortgages.

The aspiration is to replace hundreds of high-paying jobs in a short span of time in a region where economic opportunities are sparse. But it’s like the miner said: It’s assembling a parachute after you’ve leapt from a traveling plane.

San Juan County is not the only place local communities will suffer. Mining legislation threatens to do the same in Grant County. Numerous oil and gas bills will impact Southeastern New Mexico.

It is baffling that those who worship the Earth don’t understand that it is the Earth that gives us the resources we need to live. Additionally, it is those resources that provide the basis for our economy.

Meanwhile down at the border…

Ranchers in New Mexico and Arizona continue to plead for a safe and secure environment for their families. The confusion between illegal immigration and a safe and secure border continues to reign.

On the New Mexico side the Cattle Growers’ (NMCGA) have implemented an offense strategy on Twitter and Facebook. Those avenues have garnered national attention, with President Trump tweeting out an Albuquerque television report that told the real story about what life is like along the border.

The reaction here at home wasn’t what we might have hoped. In order to clarify the need for safety NOW, the following policy statement has been crafted:

New Mexico and Arizona border ranchers have serious security concerns on the Mexican border that reach well beyond immigration and border wall issues.

The New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association has had a member murdered on the Arizona side. Another member had an employee kidnapped, beaten and held for days at gun point. No one is safe without a gun moving around their home, barns, corrals and pastures.

Ranchers empathize and sympathize with those who are seeking asylum. Historically the practice on border ranches was to provide food and water for folks coming across the border. Today that is not safe due to the size and number of groups along with the volume of drugs coming across the border.

But while immigration and the wall dominate the nation scene and media, we here at home must have safety and security for our children, families and property.

Concerned citizens of United States/Mexico border counties are hosting a public meeting on Saturday, March 9, 2019 at 1 pm at the United Methodist Church in Deming, New Mexico. The increase of illegal immigrants and drug/human smugglers from Mexico continues to create a common fear among border residents for their safety and the safety of their loved ones.

Pleas for help from not only Washington, but state governments as well, are falling on deaf ears. That, combined with false coverage by mainstream media, has border county citizens fed up. Presentations will be made by a diverse group of industry experts and border residents that have been involved with this ongoing issue for years. Topics to be covered include health and safety issues, drug and sex trafficking, and animal disease contamination. It is the hope of the planning committee that this meeting will bring the safety and security concerns from those residing in every border county along the United States/Mexico border to the general public’s attention.

In addition to the general public, other invitees include elected officials from local, state and federal agencies, as well as several media outlets. Work is underway to set up live streaming of the meeting on Facebook and YouTube. Watch them and your emails for more details on that.

In March 2016 NMCGA members in the Bootheel held a similar gathering in the tiny hamlet of Animas, drawing hundreds of people from across the nation. Unfortunately, the only federal elected official who attended was then Congressman Steve Pearce.

In southern Arizona a group of ranchers are exercising their First Amendment rights in seeking a redress of grievances from their senators and congressman, according to a post from the Tucson People for the West chapter.

These ranchers must deal everyday with illegal crossings and lack of proper infrastructure that would make our southern border more secure. Unlike politicians spouting talking points, these ranchers have first-hand knowledge of what is really going on along the southern border. The federal government is failing to adequately protect the private property rights of these ranchers.

One of the ranchers, Jim Chilton, has a ranch which lies south of Arivaca, Arizona, and extends to the Mexican border. On the ranch, the Mexican border is marked by a four-strand barbed wire fence. That’s all. There are many trails from the border through the ranch. Two years ago, Jim set up cameras on two of the trails. During that time the cameras captured approximately 500 trespassers going both north and south. Jim suspects he has recorded drug smugglers. The ranch headquarters has been burglarized twice and often water supply pipes to stock tanks have been broken. The smugglers have free run of the ranch because there is no real barrier.

Their Petition reads:

Whereas, one of the most active drug smuggling and human trafficking corridors in the Nation is the international boundary between Nogales and Sasabe, Arizona;

Whereas, 25 miles along the border area south of Arivaca is marked by only an old four-strand barbed wire cattle fence;

Whereas, the Sinaloa Cartel has control of this 25-mile international boundary and of the thousands of square miles of minimally patrolled ranchland adjacent to it inside the United States, due to lack of adequate border infrastructure, the Border Patrol has been largely restricted to a “Defense in Depth” strategy which is inefficient due to rough terrain and inadequate access and allows the presence of well- equipped cartel scouts on top of our mountains to successfully direct drug and human trafficking;

Whereas, although the Tucson Station Patrol Agent-in-Charge and Border Patrol agents try their best to do their job, the lack of access and infrastructure, cartel scout presence, and rough terrain and inefficient “Defense in Depth” strategy creates a de facto “no man’s land” in which border ranchers live and work;

Whereas, the national Border Patrol Council Vice President, Art del Cueto, has asserted on national television that under the present situation, no more than 50 percent of illegal crossers are apprehended;

Whereas, Border Patrol agents are headquartered in Tucson, eighty miles and three hours from the border on our ranches and there are no roads paralleling the border and no efficient north-south access for the Border Patrol to respond to incursions; and

Whereas, current “defense in depth” strategy means the Tucson Station Border Patrol agents are dispersed across the 4,000 square miles of area of responsibility and are operating in the “backfield” instead of operating on the 25 linear miles of the actual border;

Therefore be it resolved, Border ranchers petition our government to construct an adequate security barrier such as a Bollard-style fence at the border, good all-weather, well-maintained roads leading to the border and along it, adequate, modern flood gates at water crossings, appropriate surveillance technology to monitor Border Patrol personnel and border status, air mobile support, and reliable communications for Border Patrol agents to call for back-up, and forward operations bases near the border barrier to effectively secure the international boundary between Nogales and Sasabe, Arizona.

The petition is signed by these ranchers: Jim Chilton, Chilton Ranch; Tom Kay, Jarillas Ranch; John R. Smith, Arivaca Ranch; Ted Noon, Oro Blanco Ranch; and Lowell Robinson, Tres Bellotas Ranch.

Electric cars, taxes & road repair…

U.S. roads and bridges are in abysmal shape—and that was before the recent winter storms made things even worse, says Jay L. Zagorsky, “The Conversation”, in a RouteFifty post.

In fact, the government rates over one-quarter of all urban interstates as in fair or poor condition and one-third of U.S. bridges need repair.

To fix the potholes and crumbling roads, federal, state and local governments rely on fuel taxes, which raise more than $80 billion a year and pay for around three-quarters of what the U.S. spends on building new roads and maintaining them.

The yield from these taxes is shrinking. Cars and trucks get better gas mileage than ever, thus reducing the amount of taxes paid. Then you throw electric cars in the mix.

Presently there are no taxes on the electric charging stations, already in place and those proposed. Nothing is going to road maintenance of those electric vehicles. As the growth of the electric car market continues, road problems will only get worse.

Charging stations operate just like gas pumps, only they provide kilowatts of electricity instead of gallons of fuel. While electric vehicle owners are free to use their own power outlets, anyone traveling long distances must use these stations. And because charging at home is a hassle—requiring eight to 20 hours—most drivers will increasingly choose the convenience and speed of the charging stations, which can fill up an EV in as little as 30 minutes, thinks Zagorsky.

One option could be for governments to tack on their taxes to the bill, charging a few extra cents per kilowatt “pumped into the tank.” Furthermore, I would argue that the tax—whether on fuel or power—shouldn’t be a fixed amount but a percentage, which makes it less likely to be eroded by inflation over time.

On the subject of taxes…

HB 206, a massive new tax bill in the New Mexico Legislature, has passed its first committee. Given the time left in the Session, the chances of this bill making it all the way through the House and the Senate are not great. However, some legislation can grow legs and make a run for sine die. Don’t count this one out yet.

Congratulations are in order!!!

The New Mexico Beef Council’s Dina Reitzel has been appointed to the New Mexico State University Board of Regents! It appears she will be confirmed by the New Mexico Senate well before the end of the Session and will be representing agriculture soon.

Please join us in extending congratulations to Dina!

Abby T. Sheppard

Some of you have had the pleasure of meeting Abby. Most of you who have were afraid of her. She was just doing her job –protecting me.

Abby was born in June of 2005. She came to me from Dr. Steve England and his bride Pam a couple of months after my beloved Betsy left us.

Abby was never a people person dog and she made it perfectly clear that you were never to enter my personal space… like my office or front door. In my nearly 12 years with her, she never bit anyone, but she let you know she would and could if she chose.

Abby was an activist. She had her own Gmail account and often commented on the issue of the day. She was particularly interested in ranching, private property rights and the ability to use federal and state trust lands.

Abby, suffering from liver cancer, left us peacefully on February 17, 2019 at Red Doc Farm near Belen, where she lays at rest. Bullet is very sad and misses her terribly. If all goes as planned, he will be joined by an Auggie baby sister in late March.      

Source: New Mexico Stockman, March 2018

Feb 02 2019

Cowboys & Flags

by Caren Cowan, Executive Director,
New Mexico Cattle Grower’s Association
Read this article & more in New Mexico Stockman Magazine

Spending a month or two in Santa Fe during the Legislature can be challenging. You are away from home and around a lot more people than you usually are. You miss your own bed and your dogs. You are expected to be nice ALL the time. After some 28 years, I am allowing myself to fall off that wagon.

We attended a reception the first week of the Session. In the style we all believe in, the formal part of evening started with a prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance. As I proudly looked around the room at all the hats, cowboy and others, that were removed for the opening.

My mood and my view was spoiled by a lone cowboy hat that still sat atop the head of a guy who was saluting rather than holding his hand over his heart. I guess I am beginning to understand all of Grandmother’s rules better and this behavior went all over me.

I asked around and learned the guy is a would-be congressman in New Mexico’s second district. I thought if the guy wanted to be elected in a district full of cattlemen, ranchers and bona fide cowboy hat wearers, he might appreciate knowing how far out of line he was keeping his hat on inappropriately.

Imagine my surprise when he told me he would be breaking the law if he took the hat off as a show of respect for the American Flag. He said there had been a new law passed that required veterans to keep their head cover on and to salute during the Pledge or the Anthem. I asked him to show me the law and he started fiddling with his phone.

He told me that flag etiquette had changed several years ago and that is was hard to be an early adopter of new things. I reiterated that his behavior would not garner him votes especially in the rural areas. I wasn’t fast enough to think to ask him if he ever drove over the speed limit.

The whole episode got me thinking about the things many people don’t know about cowboy hats and veterans requirements … including me. Here’s some information I found. Some of it is preaching to the choir and I apologize for that in advance, but tune ups are never a bad thing.

A Guide to Cowboy Hat Etiquette

Bernard Hats has a website that is full of information on cowboy hats. They say that while the cowboy hat is one of the most beloved items of western wear, there’s more to buying and wearing cowboy hats than just putting it on your head.

The first Rule that is indisputable and critical, is DO NOT mess with a cowboy’s hat.  A cowboy hat is a very personal, and sometimes very expensive item that you don’t pass around. In some places, to touch a man’s hat without permission will get you hog tied to a tree so you just don’t do it.

Some standard, base-line points of etiquette:

  • Any time you enter a building, the hat should come off.
  • If it is an informal occasion you may put it back on but for a formal occasion it should stay off.
  • When sitting down at a table for a meal, the hat should come off unless there is nowhere to safely lay the hat.
  • When sitting down at a counter for a meal, the hat can stay on.
  • Out on the range however, keep your hat on while you eat. If you take your hat off, another wrangler might step on it or spill food on it.

Originally felt hats were intended for winter wear (protecting from moisture and cold) and straw for summer (protecting from heat and sun) which is logical.  An arbitrary fashion rule is supposedly that felt is worn between Labor Day and Memorial Day, and straw in between. The reality is that both are seen at either time of year depending on the weather at the time of wearing. If it’s super-hot, maybe a straw would be better than a black felt hat. If it’s a cold night, a straw might be too chilly on the head and felt would be a more comfortable choice. Then again, if it’s a formal event, I probably wouldn’t wear a straw no matter what. Let common sense be your guide.

When to remove your cowboy hat

During the National Anthem, Pledge of Allegiance, the Passing of the Flag, In Church, during a Prayer, an indoor Wedding, a Funeral (indoors) or at the “passing” of a casket in a funeral procession. Hold your hat in the left hand with your right hand over your heart. You may also hold your hat in your right hand, followed by holding your hat over your heart. Either way is acceptable.

When you are introduced to a woman. If warranted, remove your hat (by the crown) with your left hand so that you may shake her hand with your right.

This should also apply to anyone who is your Elder or a “Man of the Cloth”. In other words, the Clergy, Pastor, Priest, and so on.

When you begin a conversation with anyone; but not needed if your just saying “hello” as you pass them.

It is generally considered, to always remove your hat while in a private home.

* Unless others are wearing their hat/s. It is then considered to be at the blessing of your host or hostess.

Always remove your hat by the crown.

*Some people do use their brim, but the brim must be strong. Do not use the edge of the brim. Removing the hat by the crown is the most customary.

If you need to adjust your hat, do so by the crown.

Never lay a cowboy hat down on the brim. Place your hat on it’s crown, brim up.

Your hat should always be removed while dining in a restaurant.

*Unless, you’re in fast food restaurant.

Take your cowboy hat off when you’re indoors.

Another key to being a proper cowboy is to remove your hat when you go inside. Elevators, lobbies, and building corridors are an exception to this rule, but once you’re in a room with other folks you should remove your hat, especially if there’s a lady present.

Never mess with another cowboy’s hat.

A cowboy’s hat is very personal property, so leave ‘em be unless you want trouble.

Rules for Saluting US Flag has a wealth of information on veterans and head cover when addressing the flag. Traditionally, members of the nation’s veterans service organizations have rendered the hand-salute during the national anthem and at events involving the national flag only while wearing their organization’s official head-gear.

The National Defense Authorization Act of 2008 contained an amendment to allow un-uniformed service members, military retirees, and veterans to render a hand salute during the hoisting, lowering, or passing of the U.S. flag.

A later amendment further authorized hand-salutes during the national anthem by veterans and out-of-uniform military personnel. This was included in the Defense Authorization Act of 2009, which President Bush signed on Oct. 14, 2008.

Here is the actual text from the law:


Section 301(b)(1) of title 36, United States Code, is amended by striking subparagraphs (A) through (C) and inserting the following new subparagraphs: “(A) individuals in uniform should give the military salute at the first note of the anthem and maintain that position until the last note; “(B) members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render the military salute in the manner provided for individuals in uniform; and “(C) all other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, and men not in uniform, if applicable, should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart;….

U.S. Flag Code says the rules for handling and displaying the U.S. Flag are defined by a law known as the U.S. Flag Code. They excerpted the federal regulations here without any changes:

The following is the text of section 4 in United States Code Title 4 Chapter 1.

§4. Pledge of allegiance to the flag; manner of delivery

The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag: “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” should be rendered by standing at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. When not in uniform men should remove any non-religious headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Persons in uniform should remain silent, face the flag, and render the military salute.

So there you have it, Mr. Candidate, get that hat off when it is appropriate.


We are three weeks into the eight-week 2019 Legislature and things are going pretty well. We were able to get the Beef Council bill to add a voluntary dollar to the state checkoff off to the Governor’s desk.

The Legislature and Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham instituted a “rocket docket” for this Session. Bills that had passed unanimously or with little opposition during the last two Legislatures were pre-filed and put on a fast track to the 4th floor. We knew that the Beef Council bill fit that category so Senator Pat Woods got high behind and got the bill on the docket. Hopefully by the time you read this, the Governor will have signed it.

Before I say anything else, our Bill Readers deserve a great big thanks! They started working on pre-filed bills in December and the bills just keep coming. At press time there were right at 1,000 bills, memorials and resolutions filed. New bills must be filed by February 14, but memorials may be filed throughout the Session.

Additionally there will be over 100 “dummy” bills numbered. Leadership and committee chairs have the opportunity to continue to introduce legislation using these bills. The bills never get titles and often you have to chase the actual text down in the Capitol. At this time it appears that we could get to over 3,000 bills, but 6,000 looks less likely.

Another win the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association has under their belt is the amendment to HB 204, the Healthy Soils Act. The Association is not against healthy soils or even funding for more soils projects and/or to match with federal funds that are available.

The objections include the creation of more bureaucracy which would drain money off from the ground work, the number of groups eligible to receive monies available, the repeated use of the words “organic matter and carbon” (carbon is organic matter), and where the requested funds are going to go.

On the carbon issue, we were told outside a committee room that our cows are the reason that carbon is an issue and that eventually all of our cows will freeze to death. We and cows are the reason for the recent polar vortex (aka cold front) that recently hit the middle and Eastern part of the United States.

The amendment that got the bill out of its first committee took away the new bureaucracy as well as the list of groups eligible for the funding. All of these groups will still be able to access funds, but they will need to do it in cooperation with Soil Conservation Districts.

You may not know that due to all the budget cuts the state has seen over the past several years, the Soils Lab at New Mexico State University (NMSU) has been shuttered. It makes sense that if we are going to do more soils work, there should be a lab in the state to do the research and testing. Presently soils are being shipped to Colorado or Texas for the needed work.

The cost of restarting the Soils Lab is about $3.5 million. The bricks and mortar are still there, but the lab must be refurbished and new equipment and staff added for the microbial testing envisioned in HB 204. Additionally there will need to be recurring funds to maintain staffing and for supplied.

We will continue to work on this bill so it can be supported by all. Its next stops are the House Ag & Water Committee and then House Appropriations & Finance. It will have to be passed on the House Floor before beginning a similar journey on the Senate side.

There are at least three horse bills now introduced along with stopping animal killing contests, stopping trapping, some scary tax bills and plenty of water bills. We ask you to consider donating just one day to come to Santa Fe to help us work on all these issues and more. It is a small price to pay for protecting your family and your livelihood.      

Source: New Mexico Stockman, February 2018

Dec 30 2018

Then & Now

by Caren Cowan, Executive Director,
New Mexico Cattle Grower’s Association
Read this article & more in New Mexico Stockman Magazine

One of my guiding principles has always been that you cannot move very far forward without remembering where you came from. Yes, lots has changed over the decades, but we carry forward the same faith, values, and integrity from those who have gone before. We cannot forget the wisdom that is passed down as well.

 With the New Mexico Stockman magazine entering into its 85th year of publication, my 10th year as publisher, and my 257th column (I may always be the last thing that goes in the magazine but I have missed only one since mid-1997); I thought it might be instructive to take a look back and see where we have come from and how that impacts today.

The oldest bound volume of the Stockman we have in the office is from 1939 so we have only 80 years of history captured but that should give a great road map of the past. The January 1939 issue of the Stockman was a Special Edition devoted to the New Mexico State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts. The institution has grown exponentially expanding its areas of instruction, its footprint on the main campus and around the state, and number of students it reaches but the core mission of the land grant university remains a publicly funded agricultural and technical educational institution.

The Stockman in January 1939 was a pretty comprehensive review of what the State College did for the livestock community around the state. Of particular interest, considering where we are today, was an article on Soil Conservation and the work of the cooperative extension service on soil projects that began in 1937. More on this topic later in this column, but suffice it to say now, this remains a current topic in New Mexico.

There was an article on the Importance of the Agricultural Experiment Station by none other than Dr. Fabian Garcia. This is another topic under scrutiny today with an experiment station system that has grown to 12 stations to fill the needs of the entire Station. The question is do we really need that many? It likely depends on where you live and what services you utilize the station nearest to you. It is fair to say the ones across the state from you are not necessary. But those stations provide services to those who are near them, too.

Today, in the age of the computers and instant communications in a variety of platforms, some think that there is no longer a need for bricks and mortar. New Mexico State University (NMSU), its Regents and its supporters in the agricultural community worked hard to gain approval for a bond in the 2018 Legislature that was passed during the 2018 General Election to add much needed infrastructure on the main campus in Las Cruces. The real work begins as those building projects take shape… and the work within them shapes the future of agriculture.

Can you really imagine that you can learn to cut meat solely by computer instruction? Or that soil science improvements can be made only on a computer?

There are also some that think that agriculture is a thing of the past, citing federal statistics that less than two percent of the population works in agriculture (omitting the rest of the sentence “to feed the nation and the world). The fact is that agriculture makes up 12 percent of New Mexico’s economy. Given that energy exploration and production make up 30 percent of the state’s economy, it is clear that resource industries are highly important to the future of our state and its citizens.

In 1939 the Stockman was owned and published by the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association (NMCGA) and was the official publication of the NMCGA, the New Mexico Wool Growers’ Association, and the Southeastern New Mexico Grazing Association. The presidents of these groups respectively were Oliver M. Lee, Burton C. Mossman, and Floyd W. Lee. You find these families in the membership rolls today.

Over the next 11 months we will continue to visit the Stockman archives.

Sad News

“Our good friend and property rights hero Chuck Cushman passed away last night at 10 p.m., December 27, 2018. He was 75 years old. He died of congestive heart failure after a long illness.” This was the message many private property rights advocates across the nation received from Ron Arnold the morning of December 28.

An obituary wasn’t ready at press time, but folks on the list serve have been sharing our memories and fun stories about Chuck for days. If you missed knowing Chuck, you missed a lot.

Chuck was the founder of the American Land Rights Association based in Battle Ground, Washington. From that uniquely named location Chuck fought for private property rights in every corner of the nation. It didn’t matter the size of your property, from an acre in-holding in a forest to a 1,000 head federal allotment – if your rights were in jeopardy, Chuck was the man to help.

My first and New Mexico’s first introduction to Chuck was in about 1994 during the Joint Stockmen’s Convention. The convention was held at the Albuquerque Convention Center and the nearby Hilton downtown. Bill Clinton was President and he decided to visit Albuquerque during the convention.

Ronnie and Beverly Merritt were chairmen of the Wool Growers ‘Action Committee. They were acquainted Chuck. They called him to ask how we could make hay of the situation. That’s all it took for Chuck to jump on the first plane to Albuquerque. His big idea – A Clinton Free Zone in downtown Albuquerque.

Given that Bruce King, a member of New Mexico’s livestock industry, was sitting Governor, he was given a heads up. He asked that we be tasteful.

People were dispatched to local stores for poster paper, markers and sticks to hold the posters with. Then the artwork began.

On the appointed day at the appointed time Chuck, Ronnie and Beverly gathered the troops on the Plaza across the street from the Convention Center. First rattle out of the box security of some kind showed up and said the signs couldn’t be on sticks –sticks can be weapons you know.

Undaunted, Chuck herded the fledgling demonstrators into a circle and lead chants. Dressed in my newest wool outfit I stood to the side watching. Pretty soon my Uncle Bill and Aunt Cordy came by carrying their signs. I smugly asked Uncle Bill what his mother would think about the demonstration. He grinned and hollered back, “She’d want to know why you were just standing there.” It didn’t take me long to get into some long pants and take my position behind the Cowans.

Howard Hutchinson remembers more of the event, and there is a reason why. He writes “We also had Clinton Free Zone stickers made up that were placed on the urinals in the hotel restrooms in Albuquerque and at a meeting hotel in Salt Lake City. The most fun was watching Caren and NM Cattle Growers counter protest the college students out in front of the hotel completely captured the media present. The students did not know what to do and left quickly. It was Chuck like the energizer bunny herding folks not normally prone to engage in protest that made these events occur.”

We made the front page of the Albuquerque Journal and gained attention throughout the West that couldn’t be ignored by the Clinton Administration.

We learned a lot from Chuck that day that has been put to use countless times in the last 20-plus years.

Chuck also invited us into his inner circle of private property advocates. For that same 20 years we have had the opportunity to participate with the group and have impact on national decisions.

Chuck will be forever missed and never forgotten.

Feral Animals Plague New Mexico

We in the livestock industry often face issues with feral animals. At present the most notable problem is feral horses. We often feel there is little understanding among the urban population with the issue.

The shoe is on the other foot now. According to a story by Ryan Boetel, “Dozens – “if not tens of dozens” – of feral cats have formed a colony near at least one Albuquerque condominium complex, creating a nuisance for the people who live there, according to a lawsuit against the city over its “trap, neuter, return” policy.

The Winrock Villas Condominium Association filed a lawsuit last week in 2nd Judicial District Court against Albuquerque seeking damages over the feral cat program. The lawsuit describes the program as a “public nuisance” because the cats damage property and could also spread diseases.

The attorney for the condo association, said that, for years, the city has trapped, then spayed or neutered feral felines before releasing them at spots throughout the city where they’ve formed colonies.

“The city can’t just be dumping this burden back onto the citizens of the city,” said Blair Dunn, the attorney filing the suit. “It’s the city’s responsibility to take care of this problem.”

Animal Humane New Mexico endorses “trap, neuter, return” as a humane and effective method to manage feral cat colonies, according to the organization’s website.

The city in a previous lawsuit defended the practice in court. But the ruling in that case didn’t directly address the merits of the policy.

Last but not least, the 2019 Legislature

Shortly after you read this, we will be gathering in Santa Fe for the 2019 Legislature. We will have many new faces and lots opportunity to educate folks on the importance of agriculture to New Mexico, the nation and the world. With those opportunities there are already challenges we know we will have to confront.

Between the House and the Senate, there are already well over 300 measures that have been pre-filed. The 10 for 10 Bill Readers are already at work and there is room for a few more of them if you have time to read 10 out of every 100 bills and share your thoughts with the NMCGA Legislative Team in Santa Fe. Just email or call the office at 505/247-0584 to sign up and get bill numbers.

The Legislative Team is made of every member of NMCGA in some form or fashion. If you cannot read bills, we hope that you will consider donating at least one day of your time to come to Santa Fe and work with the folks from NMCGA representing not only the Association, but the ag community as a whole. If you cannot make it to Santa Fe, please find another way to contribute to those who do.

There are at least three people from NMCGA in the Roundhouse. One of the duties of the President Elect is to be at the Legislature. Thus, Randell Major spends the major part of two months in Santa Fe. Both Caren Cowan and Michelle Frost relocate to Santa Fe for the duration of the Session. Joe Culbertson donates two months to the NMCGA during the Legislature.

Given that last year there were two key House and one key Senate committees meeting simultaneously, it took three people to just cover the bases. Often other committees meeting at that time need the attention of NMCGA. It would be good to have five or six people on hand a lot of the time.

But there are more resources necessary to support the legislative work of the NMCGA. For 60-day Sessions, the budget is $20,000. The whole Association owes the Joint Stockmen’s Convention Silent and Live Auctions organizers, donors, volunteers, and buyers a huge debt of gratitude for the more than $16,000 that was raised during the Convention in 2018.

Pleases let us know what works best for you to help and we will figure out a way to make it work!

But back to the legislation. We expect that all of the legislation we were able to hold back to come back this year. There is word of a “rocket docket” that will contain bills that were vetoed, or pocket vetoed in 2018 that will get one committee referral and on a fast track to Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s desk. Rumor is that the end of coyote calling contest bill will be included in this group of bills although it has never passed the House or made it to a governor’s desk.

The conservation use tax will be back again although there is no greater support in the country for the measure than there has been in previous years. There may be some who view support of the bill as politically expedient, but I refer you to the opening of this column. Agriculture has rarely viewed political expediency as a reason to do much of anything. Over the past 30 years any time we did, it wasn’t helpful.

Another topic that has already become hot is the Healthy Soils Act. The NMCGA passed a resolution against the measure (not healthy soil) at convention. At press time there still isn’t a bill available for review and there is no clarity as to how it will be paid for. We are told that there will be a $150 million fund to support the act.

The proponents of the bill admit that drought is THE problem with soils in New Mexico. There isn’t any dispute to that, but how is the government, even with millions of dollars, going to make it rain? The answer to that is the soil prescriptions and funding will create cover so that when it rains, the soil can make the best use of the water… I repeat how…?

Additionally, this bill pretty much asserts that ranchers do not take care of the soil creating a crisis now. Proponents say first that isn’t true of the bill. Second soil degradation occurred during the 1950s drought when ranchers couldn’t de-stock to protect the soil. That isn’t true. My family de-stocked and I bet yours did, too. No one wanted to have carcasses across their ranches or to harm the soil.

If you need more reason to be part of the NMCGA Legislative Team, I am sure there will be more as more bills are introduced.     

Source: New Mexico Stockman, January 2018

Dec 02 2018

Trapping Wars

by Caren Cowan, Executive Director,
New Mexico Cattle Grower’s Association
Read this article & more in New Mexico Stockman Magazine

A cow carcass lying near popular hiking trails in Santa Fe National Forest is sparking concerns about predators, particularly after reports on social media that an unleashed dog went missing while walking ahead of its owner on the Borrego Trail, according to a Santa Fe New Mexican story by Sami Edge.

Lily Azures, a former hunter who now runs an operation called Paw Trackers that helps track down lost pets, thinks Toby, the missing 40-pound terrier mix, might have been taken by a mountain lion.

Azures said she hiked with Toby’s owner to the site where the dog disappeared and saw several big cat tracks in the area. Earlier this week, she placed cameras near the carcass to test her theory.

Footage Azures uploaded to the Paw Trackers Facebook page appears to prove her right: The videos, with time stamps from the afternoon and evening of November 20, show at least one large cat ambling about and feasting on the cow remains.

Azures hopes the videos will warn people away from the area or, at the very least, convince hikers to keep their animals leashed so they don’t get nabbed by a large predator.

“A cat and human encounter is dangerous, any way you cut it. … They are powerful animals,” Azures said. “I needed to get those cameras down there to show them, ‘This is what I saw,’ and the cameras didn’t fail me.”

However, no one at the Albuquerque public comment meeting on the potential of the New Mexico Department of Game & Fish (NMDGF) opening the Trapping Rule seemed to know anything about this.

The meeting was surprisingly small with only about six anti-trapping folks there. They were well outnumbered by trappers and their supporters who did an excellent job of explaining why trapping is necessary. The comments ranged from predator control to the economic benefit to individuals and rural communities.

That didn’t deter those folks who didn’t seem to know much about trapping rules and were focused on their emotional folderol about how society had evolved from the need for trapping, and for one lady, even hunting and fishing. In her eyes nothing should ever be killed. There was one woman who is a “certified wildlife biologist” from Oregon. She now lives in New Mexico and works for the New Mexico Environment Department as a scientist… we know this to be true because she said it about five times. She did take a break to wave and say “hello” to the private camera filming from the back of the room.

As a certified wildlife biologist, now certified in New Mexico, and a scientist, she does not believe that there is enough science to support trapping in the state. However, she didn’t have an answer on where the science is on how many dogs have been caught in traps or what the circumstances were surrounding the few incidents that take place according to local news.

In most places it is the law of the land that dogs be kept on leashes and in control of the handler, usually of no more than six feet. In Albuquerque that is true even if you are on your own private property.

One recent dog/trap incident was one where the dog was on leash and was caught in a trap. Clearly the leash laws/regulations were broken in this event. The handler did not have control of the leash or the animal. The excuse was that the dog was curious and so was the handler.

You will hear this story during the upcoming Legislature ad nauseam. Without a doubt the trapping ban bill will be on the docket complete with all the histrionics of years past.

Back to the substance of the proposed rule change for trapping. In 2017 and 2018 there was a group called together at the request of a memorial passed by Senator Pete Compos. The memorial was introduced in 2017 after Senator Compos pulled his anti-trapping bill. The purpose of the measure was to bring people together to see if there was any common ground that could be reached between trapper supporters and deniers.

Although it was clear at the first meeting, on a holiday weekend, that no matter what came out of the group, there were those antis who were going to bring the bill forward. Yet there was a fairly devoted crew who gave up three more Saturdays and another holiday weekend to work on something for Senator Compos.

The meetings were grueling at best. The third meeting was the worst and I will admit that I totally lost it. At each meeting we were all asked to make some comment about ourselves as part of our introduction. At the third meeting the request was to say something about what we had learned about each other at the previous meetings. Miss Sierra Club was one of the first to speak. What she had learned, and she said it was terrible, was that trapping supporters hated animals. I was so mad by the time my turn came that I didn’t even say my name, let alone say something about the group… who knows what I might have said.

Then it got worse. During the meeting, Miss Sierra Club said that set-backs from road and high use areas didn’t really matter what the distance was. The only reason the antis cared about set-backs was to make things more difficult for trappers – it had nothing to do with safety.

Somewhere about this time I got a call that our dear Sharon King didn’t have long to be with us. Already being upset, I certainly didn’t give a rat’s posterior about what anybody thought the rest of the meeting.

Then it got more irritating. As each of the breakout groups reported their progress or lack thereof, one of the recommendations was for more education. For the anti-trappers, that education was only to be for the trapping community. For the rest of us it was more public education working toward avoiding future conflict. I expressed that sentiment.

Then Miss Animal Protection of New Mexico yelled that if the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association wanted to pay for the development of public education that was fine, but she and her group refused to have any part of it. I wasn’t very nice until the end of the meeting, in fact the meeting ended shortly thereafter.

These Albuquerque comment meeting had its’ own shocking moments… one was when a new Miss Sierra Club, who honestly seems like a nice person, informed the NMDGF that they had the worst “f-ing” website ever. I agree that I have some difficulty navigating the site, but my feelings are nowhere near that strong!

The proposed changes for the trapping rule all came out of the working group. They are:

Mandatory Trapper Education. New Mexico has some of the strongest trapper education in the nation. Mandatory education might help in identify those who are trapping illegally.

Changing set-back from 25 to 50 feet, in effect doubling the distance for trappers… and doubling the time it will take to check traps and halving the number of traps that could be run. The trappers were necessarily opposed to this change… but they want the 24-hour trap check rule changed to 72 hours which would give them time back to allow more traps.

Allowing the Director to close high use areas to trapping.

Signage at trailheads so that hikers and dog walkers would at least know there were traps in the area. During the group meetings, the antis wanted signs on each trap. Duh…

Better definition of what is a “trail.”

The Game Commission was to decide at their November 30 meeting on whether to open the rule to make these changes. Stay tuned!

Mid-Term Elections & the 2019 Legislature

As happens every two years, the elections have come and gone. In 2018 all the state-wide offices were up as well as the State House of Representatives. There were winners and losers.

We have plenty of opportunities to make new friends, renew old acquaintances and build stronger relationships. We won’t say good bye, but see you later, to old friends who have well-served New Mexicans for years.

There will be new faces in House Committees and there will be lots of opportunity for education and exchange. That’s where you come in.

If you don’t already know who your legislators are, please take the time to get to know them before we get to Santa Fe in mid-January. It will make communicating with them during Session a lot easier.

We are expecting many bills to be back like the anti-trapping measure, changing the name and the mission of the Game Department, anti-coyote calling, a State Environmental Policy Act, changing how the Game Commission is selected, the conservation special use valuation, adding animals like coyote to the furbearers listed in statute, an increase of the inspection fee for the New Mexico Livestock Board, feral horses… and much, much more. Surely there will be something that sparks your interest.

We will need your help on each and every day of the 60-day Session. Please set aside some time now. If you would like to be one of the 10-for-10 bill readers who help make sure that EVERY bill introduced has eyes on it, please let us know. We have no idea just how many bills will be introduced this Legislature, but it could be a lot more than we have seen in recent years.

Rural Media Comes to New Mexico

A new owner will take over the Don Imus Cattle Ranch in northern New Mexico. Rural Media Group announced its purchase of the Ribera property in late November.

Starting this spring, the ranch will be used in RFD-TV and the Cowboy Channel productions. Filming will kick off with shows like “Best of America By Horseback” and “Debbie Dunning’s Dude Ranch Round-Up.”

Early Shake-Up on NM Oil Conservation Commission

A decision by New Mexico oil and gas regulators to ease restrictions on well locations for a Texas-based company operating in one of the nation’s oldest producing basins has resulted in a shake-up on the regulatory panel and more questions from elected officials about the approval process, according to a story written by Susan Montoya. New Mexico Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn removed his agency’s appointee to the state Oil Conservation Commission after that staffer voted in favor of the request by Hilcorp Energy Co. during a November 19 hearing.

Dunn cited concerns about Hilcorp’s plans to redevelop thousands of existing wells in the San Juan Basin as the company looks to target a formation known as the Blanco-Mesaverde gas pool.

Farewell to 2018, bring on a better 2019!

It doesn’t seem possible but 2018 is coming to an end… and none too soon for me. This has been a hard year on many fronts. Randy and I have had some major health issues. I am proud to report that I am complete recovered, and Randy is really close… however he still says his back prevents him from dancing with me. We will see about that in the New Year.

We have lost too many friends and loved ones this year. Some of them whose time had come. Some of them we can only trust that the Lord needed them way too early.

The Stockman and its staff want to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a better and prosperous New Year.      

Source: New Mexico Stockman, December 2018

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