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