Farm Bureau Minute

Farm Bureau Minute

by Mike White, President, New Mexico Farm & Livestock Bureau

Seeing the Forest through the Trees

Sometimes we get so busy tending to the issues closest to us that we forget that there are equally pressing matters occurring elsewhere. That’s why it is important for us to remember that while the actions of the New Mexico legislature are vital, their proximity doesn’t make them any more important than legislation introduced at the national level. We need to be able to see through the trees to the forest. With that in mind, several New Mexico Farm & Livestock Bureau State Board members recently traveled to D.C. to meet with our congressional delegation.

Ten board members, along with myself, Chad Smith, Zach Riley and Theresa Widner visited with New Mexico’s two senators and three congressmen the third week of April. This fly-in allowed us to make those personal connections that are invaluable when legislation arises that either hinders or advances agriculture in our state. Taking the time to visit our lawmakers in D.C. makes legislators more aware of our issues and helps them put a face to our industry. Two issues of particular importance that we spoke about with all the delegates was the Waters of the U.S. rule (WOTUS) that has been advanced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Estate Tax reform.

We also visited the headquarters of the American Farm Bureau Federation where we met with Paul Schlegel, Director, Environment and Energy Policy.  He addressed the issue of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) and the impact mandatory labeling would have on our state. AFBF efforts in immigration reform was discussed by Kristi Boswell, Director of Congressional Relations. Ryan Yates, also a Director of Congressional Relations talked about how AFBF is lobbying to amend the Endangered Species Act and thus lessen the detrimental effects it is having on our food producers.

Edward Avalos, Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs at USDA met with us to talk about the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the growth of New Mexico’s agricultural imports and exports. We departed D.C. and headed to West Des Moines, Iowa for our April board meeting.  Six more board members joined us for presentations from Farm Bureau Financial Services. This provided our board with a broader view of the insurance industry and an in-depth evaluation of New Mexico’s insurance business. All in all it was a very productive trip and I want to thank the board members who took time away from their families and farms and ranches to attend the fly-in and board meeting.

So that’s the forest, let’s turn quickly to the trees. April 10th brought to an end this year’s 60-day legislative session as it was the deadline for Governor Martinez to sign or pocket veto legislation that had been passed by the legislature. This session saw over 1,731 bills introduced and marked the first time the Republicans have held the House for sixty years, so there was lots of action and adjustments this time around.  Below is a summary of the session from Chad Smith, NMF&LB CEO.

New Mexico Farm & Livestock Bureau sponsored two measures; the Right to Farm Act (HB 564) and the Freedom from Unwanted Surveillance Act (SB 303).   Right To Farm passed the House and made it through Senate Conservation only to never be heard in Senate Judiciary. Freedom from Unwanted Surveillance Act ran out of time on the House floor. Although it was passed unanimously through the Senate and House committees, it was never heard on the floor.

Other bills of interest to agriculture that were passed and signed by the Governor include:

SB/HB112 Define Ag Use for Property Tax- provides property owners extended Ag valuations in times of drought.

SB 226 Use of Public Water & Landowner Protection- Stream access bill that protects private property rights and clarifies Attorney General’s opinion

SB 398 Livestock Running at Large- Changes from mandatory to discretionary the authority of a board of county commissioners to prohibit the running at large of livestock within the limits of a platted town site and addition, a conservancy, an irrigation district or a military reservation or enclave.

SB 276 State Engineer Hearing Venue- Requires that hearings held before the State Engineer or the Engineer’s appointed examiner must be held in the county in which the water right at issue is adjudicated, licensed or permitted, unless the parties and the State Engineer stipulate to another site for the hearing.

SB 123 Amends the definitions in the Livestock Code to remove wild animals, poultry and birds used for human consumption from the definition of “livestock,” meaning that they are not subject to meat inspection. Clarifies that the sureties listed in the definition of “bond” are those approved by the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Legislation that failed:

SB 493 An attempt to clarify that a lease of a water right and subsequent use of the water shall not take effect until after the application has been approved in accordance with law. Specifically cites compliance with Secs. 72-6-4 through 72-6-6. Farm Bureau had members both supporting and opposing this legislation, so therefore we remained neutral. SB 493 passed the Senate and was never heard in the house. The intent of this bill is good as it emphasizes due process, however it could have an impact on one’s ability to put a lease of water to immediate use. Farm Bureau needs to look closely at this in the interim and see if we cannot adopt a policy to address the concerns of this legislation.

SB 631/HB 459 Proposes to amend the Hazardous Waste Act and the Ground Water Protection Act to exclude a tank used by a crop dusting or crop spraying service from the definition of “above ground storage tank.”  Both bills failed.

HB 291/SB 483 Creates a federal land management study

HB 44 Firearm Transfer Act, which we have seen in previous years, was never heard in committee.

HB 75/ SB 92/SB 93/SB 103 Right to Work- all measures failed

Several measures to increase minimum wage once again failed

HB 410 Prohibit Horse Slaughter/ HB 411, which would have made equines companion animals, and HB 412 monitoring animals at Mexican border all failed to be heard in committee.

House memorials that addressed the Mexican wolf and memorials addressing elk populations both failed.

SB 73/215 that would have clarified landowner taking or killing of animals on private lands was never heard in committee.

SB 253 Prohibiting coyote killing contests passed the senate and failed in the house.

SB 467 ISC Membership Changes would have changed the membership of the Interstate Stream Commission; provides other terms of holding office on the commission; and expands the commission’s general powers. This is a measure we as NMFLB should also consider adopting clear policy on.

SB 631 Proposed to amend the Hazardous Waste Act and the Ground Water Protection Act to exclude a tank used by a crop dusting or crop spraying service from the definition of “above ground storage unit”

Once again Senator Sharer introduced his tax reform bill that would eliminate many of agriculture exemptions/deductions and put a flat 2 percent GRT.  SB 346 died on the Senate floor. This is another measure NMFLB needs to take a closer look at to determine the impact to agriculture.

Legislation that was vetoed:

SB 94 Permits research of Hemp as an agriculture product. NMFLB adopted a policy at the 2014 Annual Meeting that supports industrial hemp as an agriculture product.

From her executive message, Governor Martinez explained that “Senate Bill 94 poses a number of problems as a result of the contradictions it would create between state and federal law. As just one example, federal law classifies tetrahydrocannabinol as a controlled substance where hemp products designed for human ingestion are concerned. Senate Bill 94 does not recognize this distinction. This and other conflicts between state and federal law would unnecessarily complicate the task of law enforcement and the state Department of Agriculture of regulating the production of hemp.”

NMFLB would like to thank all those who made calls, emailed and showed up to committee as well as those involved in helping draft and amend legislation- THANK YOU!

A BIG THANK YOU to those that donated New Mexico-grown products in support of the Right to Farm!

  • Organ Mountain Produce
  • Sichler Farm Produce
  • Portales Select Peanut Co.
  • Border Foods Inc.
  • Heart of the Desert/Eagle Ranch
  • Thank you to the following who donated New Mexico-grown products at a discount:
  • Roberto’s Mexican Food
  • New Mexico Pecan Co.
  • Old Santa Fe Trail Beef Jerky