Farmers eligible for help

After the area has been declared a disaster from experiencing the effects of a severe three-year drought, eastern New Mexico farmers are now eligible for emergency drought assistance but local farmers aren't buying.

Nineteen counties in New Mexico and hundreds across the nation have been designated as primary natural disaster areas to the recent drought and the U.S. Department of Agriculture is providing assistance in the form of emergency loans.

Lawrence Rael, USDA state executive director, said the program will provide assistance fairly quickly as the drought has streamlined the importance of area conditions. He added the loans have favorable interest rates.

According to a press release from U.S. representative Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., the loans can be used to:

  • Restore or replace essential property.
  • Pay all or part of production costs associated with the disaster year.
  • Pay essential family living expenses.
  • Reorganize the farming operation.
  • Refinance certain debts, excluding real estate.

But local farmers said they plan not to apply for the emergency loans, some saying they're not worth applying for and others who simply don't have the need for it.

"I believe in the old system where nobody got any benefits from the government," said Roosevelt County farmer Carlos Paiz. "I've been in the business all my life. Back then there was benefits of no kind."

Paiz says there are many people able to work that won't because they will choose to receive this assistance. He added that there are few who truly need the financial help.

"It's a good program for the few that are struggling but there are a few," Paiz said. "The strugglers are gone already. Banks already know who they're going to lend to."

Paiz said other area farmers often abuse the amount of money they can receive for their land, even though many of them are what he says "well-off."

"That's the system, I think we can utilize that money somewhere else where the whole world benefits from it," Paiz said.

Roosevelt County farmer Rick Ledbetter said he doesn't know much about the program but has no interest in applying and understands why farmers, such as Paiz, are skeptical when applying for federal programs.

"When you borrow from the government, the end result sometimes isn't what it always is expected to be," Ledbetter said. "Borrowing cheap money doesn't do you a lot of good."

Curry County farmer Frank Blackburn will also not be applying for any assistance but sees the program as being helpful for others.

"I think it's a good program for those that need it," Blackburn said. "It would help them to continue operating their farm and ranch. I don't have a need for it."

Rael says each loan has a different standard of qualifications and loan amounts vary as well.

"Farmers have to prove their loss and ability to repay the loans," Rael said. "Those are the biggest requirements."

According to Rael, farmers are eligible to apply for the emergency assistance through August, giving farmers and ranchers time to assess their loss.

"The idea is to get those dollars to them as quickly as possible," Rael said.

Rael says farming is essential to the eastern New Mexico economy.

"This program gives them a safety net for things that they have no control over," Rael said, using natural disasters as an example. "Congress has authorized these programs to keep farming and ranching a strong industry. Hopefully it gives (farmers) a helping hand during this rough time."

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