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