Writer: D'Lyn Ford
LAS CRUCES - Farmers and ranchers can learn strategies for financial survival during a drought at a July 8 workshop that will be webcast to Cooperative Extension Service learning centers statewide from 6 to 8 p.m.
The workshop, which is co-sponsored by the New Mexico Department of Agriculture (NMDA) and New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service, will cover both short- and long-term financial planning for agricultural producers.
"New Mexico is in the midst of a severe drought, which is drastically affecting agricultural producers," said Billy Dictson, director of NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service. "Livestock producers are, in some cases, liquidating entire herds, which could have major tax and market implications."
"New Mexico has an over $2 billion agriculture industry. Our goal with this upcoming workshop is to provide information to all the producers who are affected by the current drought conditions," said Frank DuBois, the NMDA Secretary and Drought Task Force member who initiated the workshop to inform agricultural producers of drought-related programs currently available.
Presenters from the Cooperative Extension Service, Internal Revenue Service, and U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Services Agency will discuss disaster declarations and federal tax code, financial record keeping, Farm Services Agency disaster programs and loan restructuring. Agricultural producers interested in participating in the workshop should contact their county Extension offices before July 8.
Patrick Sullivan, a presenter and Extension agricultural economist, said to survive a drought, producers need to focus not only on short-term cash flow but also on strategies for long-term profitability.
"Drought can have long-term financial consequences, and while disaster aid and assistance programs may provide enough cash flow to keep producers in business this year, that may not be enough to prevent cash flow and profitability problems in the next several years, especially if severe drought continues," he said.
"Producers need to look at long-term profitability and, if possible, make plans for refinancing or restructuring loans and, if necessary, scale back their operations, change the mix of commodities they produce or even voluntarily liquidate some assets."
Anticipating a large turnout, Extension agents are lining up additional sites where producers can take part in the workshop.
In Rio Arriba County, Tony Valdez has arranged for the session to be webcast at six area sites: the Rio Arriba County Extension office in Española, the county Extension substation office in Tierra Amarilla, Extension's Jicarilla Apache office in Dulce, El Sueño del Corazon ranch in Abiquiu, Northern New Mexico Community College in El Rito, and the Conejos County Extension office in La Jara, Colo. The session, which will be archived, will also be presented at a July 12 CowBelles meeting in Lindrith.
Signs of the drought's impact abound in Rio Arriba County, which borders Colorado. "There's no hay growing whatsoever to feed cattle," Valdez said. "Ranchers are buying hay and hauling water to livestock, which is not normal for this higher country. Wildlife is suffering from the lack of forage and water."
In far northeastern New Mexico, Union County agent David Graham is preparing for a crowd at two sites: the county Extension office in Clayton and the computer lab at Des Moines High School in the northern end of the county.
"I know that I've had over 40 calls asking about programs and tax cuts," Graham said.
Area ranchers have sold or shipped off about 25 percent of their cattle, totaling some 20,000 head, he said. Instead of keeping 100,000 yearling cattle as they normally do, ranchers have turned back all but about 5,000 head, he said.
The financial workshop is the first in a series of statewide seminars NMSU will offer this summer to help New Mexicans cope with the drought, said workshop organizer Craig Runyan, who coordinates the university's Water Task Force and serves on the statewide Drought Task Force. Future workshops will cover drought issues related to livestock management, crop and greenhouse production, and in-home water conservation.
"We know that we have not bottomed out yet, and that New Mexico is five to seven years overdue for a drought," Runyan said. "We're dealing with two different aspects of drought: lack of rainfall, which affects livestock producers, dryland farmers and home gardeners; and lack of snowmelt to recharge our reservoirs and the underground aquifers that supply our drinking water. Even if it rains during our monsoon season this summer, the drought will not be over."
For more information about local sites for the workshop, contact your county Extension office. If you are an individual with a disability who is in need of an auxiliary aid or service to participate, please contact the county Extension agent in advance.
© 2013 New Mexico State University Board of Regents
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