To The Point

by Caren Cowan

Yes, Representative Action  . . .

We DO like Democrats! It has come to my attention that the Stockman perceived to be a bit biased toward Republicans . . . I want to clear that up. Some of my best friends are Ds . . . really.

And, the fact is that without supportive Democrats, the outcome of this and every past Legislature would have been pretty grim. This isn’t just because Democrats are in the majority, but because the issues that the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association (NMCGA) addresses are not partisan. We believe (and hope) that the work we do benefits every citizen – whether they believe that or not.

It was great fun to point out to then candidate for Governor Bill Richardson in a meeting several years ago with the NMCGA Executive Committee that over half the folks in the room were registered Ds.

While we may disagree with some legislators, of both persuasions, we hope that we can disagree without being disagreeable. As I said last month, every legislator works for what they believe is in the best interest of all of us.

Therefore, if your name isn’t mentioned here, there is no disrespect intended. In no particular order, there are many legislators who deserve our special appreciation.

Senate President Pro Temp Mary Kay Papen carried the railroad fencing bill that enhances penalties for railroads not keeping their fences up. That bill passed two House and two Senate Committees with only one (1) negative vote. The resistance was cured when the bill went to the Senate Floor. Committee Chairmen George Dodge (House Ag & Water) and Eliseo Lee Alcon (Consumer & Public Affairs) got the bill a speedy hearing. The measure passed both Floors unanimously. The Governor’s deadline for signing bills was several days off at press time, so we continue to hope that it will be signed.

Had we not had the support of the majority party on the anti-coyote hunting bill, including Representative Alcon in committee, the fight would have continued in the Senate giving proponents more opportunities to malign ranchers and hunters alike. Those voting against the measure, including most of the Republicans, were Representatives Dodge, Mary Helen Garcia, Dona Irwin, Sandra Jeff, Rudy Martinez, Kiki Savadra and Tomas Salazar. YOUR calls and emails made the difference. Most of those folks are from rural areas and/or have the understanding of the need for predator management.

Two Ds made the difference on whether or not a state environmental policy act would gain traction, voting no on the bill in committee, Representatives James Roger Madalena and Robert Gonzales. Representative Madalena single-handedly made the difference on the anti-trapping which, interestingly enough was carried by Representative Gonzales.

On the Senate side it was Majority Floor Leader Michael Sanchez who held the ground on the enhanced animal cruelty bills. This is an issue that Senator Sanchez has long stood for reason on and he deserves a great deal of thanks for his conviction and courage.

Senators John Arthur Smith, Phil Griego, George Munoz and Papen stood up for common sense and family values, again hailing from rural districts where they face the challenges of food production as well as stewardship of land and wildlife.

We have too long relied up these folks without a proper thank you in this publication and I appreciate that being called to my attention. Now of course I haven’t mentioned the many Rs, new and returning who helped our causes. Freshmen Representatives David Gallegos, Jason Harper and Kelly Fajardo, made hands along-side the seasoned warriors including Minority Floor Leader Nate Gentry.

On the Senate side we learned the hard lesson that we cannot take for granted the so called conservative party, suffering several committee losses unanimously. However, we have to congratulate NMCGA member and Senator Pat Woods for an almost perfect job his freshman year.

Sandy Hook . . . Never Again

That statement cannot be over used.  Details of the heartbreaking story continue to bring tears to the eyes of the world. Passions are just as great when the tragedy is misused for ill gotten gain.

Given the large and vigorous debate about enhanced gun laws in the 2013 Session, it was not surprising to hear the words uttered. However, when they were used on the House Floor as a reason to vote for enhanced animal cruelty penalties, it could make your blood boil.

There is much being made about a connection between domestic violence, including child abuse, and animal cruelty. I will admit that anybody I ever knew who beat their horse also beat their dog, their spouse and their children. I don’t know which comes first, the harm to the animals or harm to family. Mean people are just mean and must be dealt with accordingly by the abundance of laws that are already on the books that we don’t have enough law enforcement to cover.

But to use Sandy Hook as a reason to pass a “stronger” New Mexico animal cruelty law is just plain shameful. Reports on the dreadful day in December show absolutely no connection between the shooter and animal cruelty. It appears that violent videos games and an over indulgent, now deceased parent are the culprits along with mental illness.

If folks are going to go for drama in getting your way, get your facts straight.

Sequestration . . .

At first blush it appears that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is dealing out a great deal of the anticipate “pain” of sequestration . . . that may because that is the agency of the federal government that we have allowed ours to become semi-dependent upon.

Since Frank DuBois has taken on the subject much better than I ever could in his New Mexico Federal Lands Council column, I will be brief. We have had many calls and emails in the office regarding the cessation of payments under the USDA’s Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) which is supposed to provide financial assistance to producers of non-insurable crops due to a natural disaster.

NAP is a program that ranchers and farmers pay a premium to for coverage. Nonetheless payments so direly needed during this ongoing drought were temporarily suspended on March 1. To reinstate them, the Secretary of Agriculture must give Congress a 30 day notice that funds will be shifted to cover the program. That occurred on March 19 so it is anticipated that payments will resume on April 18 and that payments will be 100 percent of what they should be.

No good deed goes unpunished

Several years ago when people began to understand just how much water the salt cedars (tamarisk) that were planted along stream banks by our forefathers for bank stabilization were using there was a big push to kill the suckers. That was done through herbicide spraying as well as via a beetle that was found that would kill salt cedar without harming anything else.

While lots of spraying was done, there was also a multitude of beetles released across the Southwest to gnaw their way to more water for wildlife, agriculture, municipal and other highly necessary uses. At the time it seemed too good to be true and I have waited to see what negative consequences might come.

It took longer than I expected and from a different quarter than I might have anticipated, but the Center for Biological Diversity and Maricopa Audubon have proven me right. Last month they filed a notice of intent to sue USDA’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), over their failure to safeguard an endangered native songbird from the impacts of the agency’s deliberate release of an exotic beetle that is destroying the bird’s habitat in parts of Utah, Arizona and Nevada.

Word of the Month

Not that I am the most educated person in the world, but often I hear words misused and I want to do my share in correcting the problem. As my reference I am using so you can check to keep me honest.

For my first “word of the month” I have chosen:

animal husbandry / noun / the science of breeding, feeding, and tending domestic animals, especially farm animals.

As you might guess, there is method to my madness, and I promise I will get over this year’s animal rights debate some time soon. As many, many people expressed concern about the impacts to “animal husbandry” if the bills this year were passed, one statement head in the House Floor debate was that agriculture was exempt, and therefore there were no “animal husbandry” issues. Pease note, the term applies to all DOMESTIC animals – dogs, cats, and so on.