May 01 2017

High Stakes …

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

In a world where all we want to do is grow healthy food and fiber, take care of the land, provide reasonable resources for wildlife and rear families who have common sense and strong values, there is sure a lot standing in the way. It is hard to ignore the political scene both in our state and our nation.

Let’s start with the state front. At press time, there is still no word on when or if Governor Susana Martinez will call a Special Session to address the financial crisis our state is in.

We have no budget including operations for higher education, the Legislature and much, much more. The Legislature has sued the Governor and the State Supreme Court has taken on the case. The Governor’s answer to the suit is due on May 5.

She has called for furlough plans from all state agencies and there is rumor that the state will be out of money prior to the Memorial Day weekend. There is also rumor that there are tens of millions of dollars to come from the feds that could provide a short term fix. But, of course, will the feds deliver?

The Impact on New Mexico Agriculture

A higher education budget would seem to be important because we rely upon New Mexico’s institutions to educate the generations that will follow in our footsteps and create the next big advances for our community. That alone is enough to generate deep concern over the situation we now find ourselves in.

But you don’t have to dig very deep to figure out that it isn’t just higher education that we rely on our educational institutions for. In the case of agriculture, New Mexico State University (NMSU) is crucial to our future. The state’s only land grant university, NMSU houses the New Mexico Department of Agriculture (NMDA), the Cooperative Extension Service (CES), the Agriculture Experiment Station (AES) system, the Range Improvement Task Force (RITF) and the College of Agriculture.

Following those branches a bit, the CES has a presence in all of the state’s 33 counties. It is the home for 4-H and numerous other programs that reach out to local communities and works to educate youth of all ages on the agriculture. The AES has 12 science centers from Farmington to Clayton and down to Las Cruces. Each of these centers has a specific mission to address a variety of agriculture pieces. Those that ranchers work with most are the Clayton Research Center, which has a fully functional feed yard; the Tucumcari Ag Science Center which includes the Tucumcari Bull Test and lots of other projects; and the Corona Range & Livestock Center that is a working ranch laboratory.

The New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association (NMCGA) and other ag groups have often gone to bat at the Legislature and in other venues to provide funding and resources for these centers that are so important to the future on one of the largest engines in the state’s economy.

The FFA (formerly the Future Farmers of America) and the Agriculture Extension Education (AXED) programs are part of the College of Agriculture. It is worth noting that for the 2016-2017 school year, there were some four Albuquerque schools that wanted to add agriculture education to their programs. However there were not enough ag teachers available for that to happen.

We could go on, but the picture is pretty clear that much more than a teaching budget is necessary for NMSU to continue to provide all the services needed by agriculture.

This isn’t a problem isolated to NMSU. Other universities are equally important to other sectors so necessary to our state. Just look at the University of New Mexico and what it means to health care to the state and surrounding regions.

The Governor has pledged to fund higher education and we need to hold her feet to the fire on funding ALL of what these institutions mean to our families, our communities and our livelihoods.

Then the tax package …

The Governor also vetoed a tax package intended to address the budget crisis New Mexico has faced for the past several years and will continue to face for the foreseeable future. Being no tax expert, I am not going to sit in judgment of any package, but we have learned more about HB 412, the Administration’s preferred approach, from the regular Session. 

Sponsor Representative Jason Harper and others sat down for an afternoon at the NMCGA office for a fairly in-depth discussion. We think we planted some seeds that will bear fruit in coming versions of the bill.

As it sits now, HB 412 is alarming at best. While it appears to be clear that there is no intention to increase the tax burden on agriculture, eliminating exemptions in favor of deductions, it is completely clear that the current plan will be an impossible standard for many, many small agriculture operations across the state.

Instead of having a clear exemption as we have today, the measure would require that all agriculturists would be required to obtain a State Tax ID number, also known as a Combined Reporting System (CRS) ID Number. This registration is the Taxation & Revenue Department’s (TRD) method for reporting the State’s major business taxes.

Then for every transaction of buying or selling ag products or products used for the production of food and fiber, there would have to be a NTTC (Non Taxable Transaction Certificate) form executed. On a monthly basis a report would be filed with the TRD where the NTTC would prove deductions.

Confused yet? I certainly am. NMCGA has made clear that this process would add untold hours of record keeping to agriculturists who are already working from dark to dark would be impossible for many to comply with. Then you add in that the friendly and helpful (NOT!) TRD would be the compliance agency and it runs shivers down my spine.

The Association has requested either the retention of exemptions, which we are told is highly unlikely, or a system that would provide for a number that could be used for agriculture purchases. Stay tuned to see how all that works out.

Again, agriculture is among all New Mexico businesses that will be majorly affected by whatever the final outcome is.

Part of the intent of the bill is to eliminate business to business service taxes. For example, if passed the bill would allow your account or your attorney not to charge gross receipts tax on their services to your business.

It is envisioned that the new taxation system would begin on July 1, 2018, with regulations to be determined as the system is implemented.

On the Federal Front

News is quite a bit better on the federal front as President Trump completed his first 100 days, meeting a large number of goals that he promised and set for himself. Those include an on-going attempt to address the health care system in our nation, a new tax plan that would eliminate the death tax, and many executive orders addressing the issues that have faced the West for two or three past administrations. A prime example is the order to review all presidential monument designations back to the Clinton era.

The media is still making lots of noise about the unfavorable rating of the President. However they have to admit that it is steadily coming up and people are increasingly encouraged by the direction of the country for the last six or eight months.

What they are not taking much notice of is what is happening to the financial markets. I don’t know if that is the best yardstick, but record highs continue to be hit and this is the greatest rise in the markets since the 1940s.

We are anxious for the appointments to be made in the departments and agencies that we work with on a daily basis. We need meaningful change to individual regulations and processes. Secretary Zinke’s order for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to go back to the drawing board on their planning processes is a tremendous start. We need the same thing in the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies.

One thing to remember is that just because we have an Administration that we believe to be favorable to us, we must remain vigilant in holding their feet to the fire. We must file petitions for regulatory change. We must file lawsuits when necessary to demand the changes we need. It’s using those processes and others that put our backs to the wall now.

We must also be willing to serve when asked. There will be many requests for service or guidance in the months and year to come. This is not the time to let someone else do it. This is YOUR time to lead. Please don’t ignore it.

Wolf Wars

A prime example of the continued fight is on the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the listings that have been, the regulatory guidance, and anything and everything else we can think of.

Late April saw some movement on the wolf front. First there was a decision out of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals vacating the restraining order keeping the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) from releasing wolves in New Mexico without permission of the state. There is no doubt that is disappointing. However, this doesn’t make the case go away. The New Mexico Department of Game & Fish can still proceed with the underlying case.

There were two reasons given for the overturn. One was that the State didn’t make the case of irreparable harm. That single reason, that we may disagree with, should have been enough said. However the Court felt the need to go one step forward, claiming that the ESA trumps all. That is the mantra we have heard out of federal lawyers ad nauseam.

Hopefully we now have a Trump for that.

10J Rule Case

The day after the 10th Circuit ruling, some 12 attorneys massed in the Federal District Court in Tucson for a hearing on the case filed by the Arizona/New Mexico Coalition of Counties against the FWS on the ESA 10J experimental, non-essential rule issued in early 2015. There were interventions and other cases that were all smashed into one hearing that including Coalition/NMCGA attorney Karen Budd-Falen, two attorneys from the Safari Club International, one lawyer from the State of Arizona, four federal attorneys, two lawyers from the Center for Biological Diversity and two from the WildEarth Guardians. Thankfully only nine of them spoke, but some of them twice.

At issue is if all or part of the rule should be remanded to the FWS to do over again and if the rule should be vacated while the do over occurs. Of course the FWS wants none of the above to happen.

The Safari Club and the Coalition/NMCGA wants all of the above. The radical environmentalists want a partial remand with no vacating.

The Judge took the case under advisement and said she would issue a decision as soon as practicable. That was amusing because one of the issues is what is “practicable” for the FWS. It is a wiggle term used by lawyers and embedded in statute.

Stay tuned for updates. Clearly regardless to what the District Court outcome is, the case will be appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals… the court most often overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.


A great deal of appreciation is in order for CKP Insurance who has just become the NMCGA’s first Premier Sponsor and the ADM who has just purchased a sponsorship package. Please support these businesses who support YOU!!!      


Source: New Mexico Stockman, May 2017 
Apr 03 2017

The Year of the Critter

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

Lots of people worked their socks off making sure that many bills that would have negatively impacted agriculture, wildlife, and all of New Mexico didn’t get to Governor Susana Martinez’ desk. They also worked on a few bills that would make life easier for some folks including one to add a second dollar to the Beef Checkoff in New Mexico. That second dollar would be VOLUNTARY with a detailed provision on how cattle and dairy men opt out of the collection of a second dollar. The first dollar is the federal dollar that is mandatory and remains the same.

Read more ...

Mar 01 2017

On the downhill slide…

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

 At this writing we are just over two-thirds of the way of the 2017 Legislature. While literally anything can happen in the next 20 days, it already has been a pretty eventful Session. Like all of them, this has been way different, but it is more glum than any I remember.

In a cruel twist of fate, both the House Agriculture & Water Committee and the Senate Conservation Committee meets at the same time, every Tuesday and Thursday morning at 8:30 a.m. That spreads the ag contingent pretty thin. The contentious issues that have come up in Conservation have required that we begin filling the seats as early as 7:00 a.m. Then, we still didn’t get all of our people into the room.

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Feb 02 2017

Take a deep seat and far-way look … and pull out your checkbook.

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

The nation elected a president that vowed to make a change in the direction of our country. The nation did the same thing eight years ago when the mantra was hope and change. Under that president the changes were incremental, but devastating for many.

Good, bad or indifferent, President Trump is wasting no time to make the changes he promised. The response from the opposition is nothing short of incredible. People are amassing and marching across the country, including New Mexico, to oppose Trump’s actions. Unfortunately it appears that they are gathering in opposition to Trump without any understanding of what he may or may not be doing.

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Jan 01 2017

The Russians Didn’t Do This…

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

While, for good or bad, as the rest of the world literally marches on in the wake of the 2016 Presidential election, there are those elitists on the left coasts who are still trying to figure out how Trump won. The overwhelming win in the Electoral College in the light of the fact that the popular vote would have dictated a different outcome prompts is hard for many to understand and precipitates calls to eliminate the college.

In a mid-December New York Times article entitled “Why Trump Had an Edge in the Electoral College” author Nate Cohn attempts to explain the situation in what started out to be unbiased fashion. He noted that “California sided with Mrs. Clinton by a vote margin of four million, or 30 percentage points.”

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