Farm bill drawing local attention

By Tony Parra: PNT Staff Writer

Agriculture committee members from eastern New Mexico have the support of Roosevelt County commissioners in lobbying efforts on the farm bill which could hurt area farmers.

Blake Curtis, president of the Ag 50 of Eastern New Mexico lobbying group, told commissioners during Tuesday’s commission meeting that stipulations in the 2006 farm bill will reduce the amount of acreage which can be re-enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program. Curtis said such a move would mean farmers from Roosevelt, Curry and Quay counties would lose out on $1.4 million in CRP contracts.

Curtis works with lobbyists who represent eastern New Mexico agriculturists in Washington D.C. The lobbyists try to keep the agriculturists from being negatively affected by proposed legislation.

“We feel that if there was a group of people who knew them (congress members) on a personal level, we could talk to them about our problems,” Curtis said. “We are very concerned about CRP. We need to look for alternatives (besides reduction of acres which can be enrolled in the CRP).”

President George W. Bush’s proposed 2006 budget includes a cut in agricultural spending to help federal budget deficits, according to a Rapid City Journal article.

Curtis said the Ag 50 Committee currently has 45 members comprised of farmers, dairy owners, bankers, cattle producers and other members with different backgrounds. The Ag 50 of Eastern New Mexico members had their first meeting in April of 2004.

Tom Clark, county commissioner, said the public needs to know about the effect the proposed farm bill will have on eastern New Mexico and its economy.

“The public has not been kept abreast about it,” Clark said. “We need some representation (in Washington D.C.).”

• County commissioners gave direction to Russell Knudson, county attorney, to draft a letter to be sent to Dairyconcepts officials about the wastewater discharge and the foul odor it is causing in the county.

County commissioners discussed the possibility of filing a public nuisance against the Dairyconcepts plant with the district court.

“The odor is bad enough,” Gene Creighton, county commission chairman, said. “My concern is if it is a health problem.”

County commissioners stated the plant has a small acreage with standing waste water causing the odor.

Jackie Grimes, county road administrator, said even if there is more acreage added for disposal of waste water it still may not solve the foul odor problem until the sludge at the bottom of the lagoon is taken care of.

• County commissioners approved a grant agreement with the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration accepting capital outlay money totaling $430,000 for things such as fairground improvements and sheriff’s department vehicles.

• County commissioners approved a grant agreement with the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration accepting capital outlay money totaling $182,000 for items such as equipment for the Arch Emergency Management Services and a defibrillator for the Milnesand Fire Department.