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