Dear Fellow Members,
We are starting out a New Year with high hopes for good things to come. I am honored and humbled to be your president and look forward to working with each of you to make our industry better.
As always, we are starting out with a carryover of issues and problems that we must turn into opportunities. Among the many, perhaps the weightiest of those challenges is the current state of agriculture within our land grant institution, New Mexico State University (NMSU). For many of us, the strength of NMSU is not only critical to the future of our industry, but we have deep family ties. In just two generations of Carol and my families, there are 14 State graduates. We have a healthy investment there, too, with Kendall and Marshall both enrolled.
Although we knew that we had vacancies in at least two extension specialist positions within the College of Agricultural, Consumer & Environmental Sciences (ACES), industry leadership was stunned to learn in early November that these positions, along with three others AND 10 county extension positions are slated for elimination. That elimination process has begun.
Our work is cut out for us with the upcoming Legislature and the NMSU Board of Regents to ensure that we can turn this wreck around. Many of the county positions are for 4-H agents, which defies logic — it is a well-known fact that 4-H members have higher high school and college graduations rates. I don’t know how many former 4-Hers sit in Congress, but I do know that New Mexico has had two in the last decade, Heather Wilson and Steve Pearce. Yet, it is 4-H positions that are taking the biggest hit.
We knew that when we lost Joe Skeen and Pete Domenici and all of their seniority in Congress we were at risk for cuts in federal monies coming our way. Senator Jeff Bingaman held on but we had no way to predict that the economy would dictate the loss of federal monies that are critical to the mission of the college as well the renowned Range Improvement Task Force (RITF). At the same time the state has been in a financial crisis that has cut extension programs harder than anything else in higher education.
This year celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act which created land grant colleges across the nation and it predates the Centennial that the State of New Mexico is celebrating. There never has been a better time to re-educate the public about the value of agriculture and the institutions that support the industry. I hope that we can count on all of you in helping convey the message that our families, our communities and our state need these 15 positions restored to the Cooperative Extension Service and filled immediately.
I know that our new President Elect Jose Varela Lopez, Legislative Committee Vice Chairman Nikki Hooser and others are preparing to move to Santa Fe for the duration of the Legislature. Jose has long been helping the Association at the Roundhouse and he knows the ropes so he will hit the ground running. It would be great if he has at least two NMCGA members by his side every day as he leads the charge for all of us.
I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize the tremendous efforts of our immediate Past President Bert Ancell over the past several years and of Past President Bill Sauble who finished his ten plus years of service in the leadership chain. Legislature was among their passions and I bet we will continue to benefit from them. I also want to thank all the previous committee chairs and vice chairs. We are successful in our work because so many participate in it.
Best wishes for a prosperous New Year, and I look forward to seeing you down the road. Our first 2012 Board of Directors Meeting is on January 23 at the Hotel Santa Fe. All members are welcome, just let the office know you are coming so there will be a plate for you.