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NMSU Dean, Secretary of Agriculture hear concerns of northern NM ag producers

ABIQUIU – Northern New Mexico ranchers and farmers expressed their concerns about the agricultural industry to the state’s top agricultural officials during a listening session July 18 in Abiquiu.


Two men talking behind table
College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences Dean Rolando A. Flores, right, and New Mexico Secretary of Agriculture Jeff Witte visit during a listening session in Abiquiu. (NMSU photo by Jane Moorman)

New Mexico State University College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences Dean Rolando A. Flores and New Mexico Secretary of Agriculture Jeff Witte answered questions and shared information about plans for the college and the federal Farm Bill during the second of three listening sessions held around the state.

“These sessions are always good to allow people to air their concerns,” Flores said. “And it gives us the opportunity to share information with them.”

Witte agreed.

“It gives us the opportunity to hear their concerns that we need to carry to Congress, federal administration, state legislature and to the general public at large,” Witte said.

Questions from the agricultural producers ranged from how information is communicated to them, to sharing their concerns about the lack of young producers in farming and ranching, access to federal land and lack of processing plants for livestock in the state.

“Communication is extremely important,” Flores said. “Our Cooperative Extension Service county agents are doing a good job, but we have to communicate better to the agricultural producers.”

Flores is moving his office to Alcalde during the first two weeks of August so he can have a better understanding of the issues that are affecting farmers and ranchers in the region and how the College of ACES can assist them better.

Flores shared information about plans for future general obligation bond money.

“We want to build a small meat processing plant in Las Cruces for our academic program,” he said. “Hopefully this will give small herd producers another option.”

With 80 percent of the land in northern New Mexico owned by the government, Witte said agricultural opportunity on private property is limited.

“There are a lot of challenges in maintaining these communities in the future and attracting the youth to continue agricultural operations,” Witte said.

Congressional representatives for Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich heard the ranchers’ frustration regarding lack of access to the high mountain grazing at the Valles Caldera National Preserve.

“The representatives need to hear the people’s concerns about Valles Caldera because that was a great private ranch back in the day,” Witte said. “A lot of cattle was run up there that really contributed to the economy. Now the preserve is contributing to the economy in different ways, but the immediate impact on the agriculture sector is gone and we miss that as a state.”

The next listening session will be on Nov. 2 at the Dona Ana County administration building on Motel Drive in Las Cruces.

Flores and Witte say they are looking forward to the next session as an opportunity to continue getting good feedback on current priorities and a look at future needs.