To The Point

by Caren Cowan

What’s NMCGA got to do with it? . . .

Some may not be aware of it, but one of the duties of the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association (NMCGA) president elect is to spend two (2) legislative sessions in Santa Fe. I don’t know who developed the plan, but over time I have learned to greatly appreciate it. Not only does it allow the incoming president to hit the ground running because they have a thorough knowledge of the issues facing the industry after that stint, but it also gives staff and leadership time to get acquainted. It might not be “bonding” but management styles, needs and expectations are definitely outlined.

When Phil H. Bidegain was president elect, he couldn’t understand why I didn’t start the day with a priority list and work down it. After a conversation or two, I produced a priority list for him that included all the things on my plate at the time. Then he was concerned that I didn’t work from the top to the bottom of the list, but rather picked off items in what I guess seemed to be a pretty random fashion. That was because with all of the issues NMCGA addresses and with a membership that is being impacted on all fronts, priorities generally change with the first or second phone call every morning.

In between those phone calls, you pick off the items that can get finished in the time available or has the earliest deadline. On any given day, there can be as many as 20 different items/issues that the NMCGA is working on all at different stages of progress.

When you change bosses every two years, you become accustomed to rolling with the flow to the greatest extent possible to accomplish the greatest amount.

None of this, however, prepared me for a couple of questions that have been asked in the past few weeks.

Calls from reporters are at least a weekly occurrence in the office. Generally the topic is wolves or whatever lawsuit was filed by those who would drive us from the land.

When the reporter called about wolves, I made an offhand comment about all the work he had been doing on events at New Mexico University (NMSU). He then wanted to know if Joe Delk really represented NMCGA when he spoke in support of the actions of the Board of Regents and requested that the proper emphasis be placed on the core missions of a land grant university — agriculture and engineering.

I responded that of course Joe was representing the Association, and a fine job he did, by the way. The next question was the one that shocked me. The reporter asked why NMCGA cared about NMSU. Clearly I have been taking much for granted than I should have been. Aside from the fact that agriculture is what feeds the world and NMSU is the place for agriculture to be taught, NMSU is where lots of our members got their higher education. It is where they hope to send their children for a good education. The Cooperative Extension Service from NMSU is available in every county of the state and offers tremendous services in youth development and numerous other areas of community support.

The reporter was unaware that the Extension program had taken huge hits during the past year. His next question was what difference it makes if there is an Extension agent in a local community — the community would survive. My answer to that was a bit more complicated. Sure a community might survive without a county agent, but when you take that family out, along with closing a Post Office, the loss of local businesses to “big box” stores in more urban areas, banks being bought out, what will rural communities have left?

I guess I confused him enough on the issue that he decided that the subject wasn’t worth pursuing.

All The Pretty Horses

Another topic of grave concern that has been highlighted over the past several months is the growing issue of unwanted horses and no humane way to dispose of them. New Mexico Livestock Board Chairman Bill Sauble and Director/Secretary of the New Mexico Department of Agriculture have brought together an unwanted horse working group to see if solutions could be identified.

In the spirit of making the table as large as possible, the group includes the livestock and racing industries as well as rescue groups and Animal Protection of New Mexico. There is effort to lump horses into the “companion” animal category from some quarters and with that comes a whole scary series of consequences from taxing feed to electronic animal identification.

The group has met three times and some good is beginning to come from it. With the help of Horses For Heroes’ Rick Iannucci, who has brought in the Department of Corrections and the Department of Veterans Affairs it looks like there may be a place for these horses in prison rehabilitation. At the last meeting the secretaries of both these departments were on hand along with Secretary Witte to begin the research necessary to get a program launched. Having three cabinet secretaries in one meeting certainly underscores the significance of the issue.

At any rate when the issue of using prisoners came up, there was a question on the criteria that would be used in selecting inmates appropriate to work with animals — after all there had been a horse beat to death by a trainer in the southern part of the state with a crowbar. We were quickly able to establish that inmates are not provided crowbars to alleviate that concern.

As we moved on to other topics, one of the first that came up was the need for a mandatory identification system via electronic chips for all horses in New Mexico. You might imagine how that set with me. After several minutes I finally stated that NMCGA had policy opposing any such program. After a bit of verbal sparring, Animal Protection of New Mexico turned to the rest of the group and asked, “What does New Mexico Cattle Growers’ have to do with horses anyway?”

So much for these folks having any idea whatsoever what ranching is all about — or what animal welfare in general is about to people who live and work with animals every day.

When that round of hilarity subsided a few more efforts were made to explain why such a system is not even implementable and the meeting soon adjourned.

Again, clearly we are not telling our message well enough if our detractors don’t even understand what we do, not to mention who we are.

On that late thing . . .

Thank you for all the thoughts and comments regarding my lesson on being tardy last week. It seems I am not doing as well as I should be yet. Apparently to be on time you also must be smart enough to enter the correct time in your electronic calendar. My apologies to Senator Bill Paine, Representative Larry Laranaga and the New Mexico Business Coalition. I am still in learning mode, but determined to do better!

Plant Rights . . .

It was only a matter of time. Many years ago I threatened to dress up as a carrot to protest an animal rights convention that was being held in Albuquerque. About a week before the meeting a NMCGA member near the city suffered destruction on his operation that was clearly tied to the event. We decided not be so cute.

Now the entire concept is pretty scary.

The environmental movement is growing increasingly radical and anti human, according to Wesley J. Smith of the National Review Online.

“Taking a beat from the animal rights movement, we have seen increasing advocacy for human-stifling agendas such as “nature rights” (now the law of two countries and nearly 30 U.S. municipalities) “plant dignity” (in Switzerland’s constitution), “river personhood” (recently enacted in New Zealand) and “ecocide,” which would make any and all large scale human uses of the land and exploitation of resources a “crime against peace” akin to genocide and ethnic cleansing.

“These are not promoted in odd Internet sites, but rather are discussed earnestly and with great respect in such liberal outlets such as the New York Times. Then here is the latest example on NPR (National Public Radio):

“Writing in the New York Times recently, Michael Marder, author of the forthcoming Plant-Thinking: A Philosophy of Vegetal Life, calls for “plant liberation.” Plant stress, Marder points out, does not reach the same intensity, nor does it express itself in the same ways, as animal suffering. This fact, he adds, should be reflected in our practical ethics.

“But, he continues, “the commendable desire to ameliorate the condition of animals, currently treated as though they were meat-generating machines, does not justify strategic argumentation in favor of the indiscriminate consumption of plants. The same logic ultimately submits to total instrumentalization the bodies of plants, animals and humans by setting them over and against an abstract and rational mind.” Therefore, he concludes, “the struggles for the emancipation of all instrumentalized living beings should be fought on a common front.” In other words, what is good for the goose is good for the gooseberry.

Smith continues, “I have been pounding the drum that plant rights, nature rights, etc. are inimical to our thriving and liberty because they undermine human exceptionalism and treat rights as something that are ubiquitous and common. I mean, if everything has rights, really nothing does.

“Please take this seriously. The green misanthropes want to tie us into knots.”

I wish I could make this stuff up . . . but it is for real. In the early 1990s I learned a little about The Wildlands Project. I thought it was the craziest thing I had ever heard of. Now, know it or now, most of you are living in the Sky Island. That’s the name The Wildlands Project gave to parts of New Mexico and Arizona as well as two states in Mexico.

If you want to know who is representing your new land and what it is about, have a stiff drink and visit www.skyislandalliance.org .

Job Opening

The New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association has an opening for a full-time (+) position for a solutions-oriented person who has great organizational, computer, and personal communication skills who is interested in dealing with membership, the public, decision makers at all levels . . . and other duties as assigned.

If you have interest or know someone who is, please submit resumes to nmcga@nmagriculture.org !

Out of time and out of space . . .

Please make plans to attend the upcoming Joint Stockmen’s Convention. Registration is open and room at the Marriott Pyramid and selling out fast. We have some great speakers lined up including Baxter Black, a columnist from the Daily Caller and more! For more information visit the NEW website at nmcga@nmagriculture.org .