Before I sat down to write this article I had decided to put forth the issues of the day as I normally do. But as I started to put pen to paper I realized that the Joint Stockmen’s Convention, the largest annual gathering of agricultural interests in New Mexico, from December 3-6, would provide more than enough timely and relevant information to give everyone input overload. As such, my final article is going to take a different path.
Over the past four years, first as president-elect and the last two years as president, I have had the opportunity on countless occasions in both New Mexico and across the country to speak with ranchers, elected officials and many other groups on the very issues I have previously covered in this column. It was an incredible experience to represent this industry, and also a heart-wrenching one numerous times, listening to the trials and tribulations that are put upon those of us whose mission in life, after God and family, is to care for our livestock, improve the health of our lands and to provide a healthy source of protein and other products to people both nationally and globally.
The issues that we face, as New Mexicans and Americans, are unlikely to wane anytime soon and will almost certainly intensify into the future. From my perspective, the urban-rural divide will only continue to grow until there is a fundamental understanding, by a majority of people, whose families are several generations removed from agriculture, what it takes to produce their food and the rationale behind how it’s produced. In many ways, doing what we do in modern agriculture, and being both effective and efficient, most people have no notion of the benefits and simplicity we add to their lives.
When there are readily available, high quality and inexpensive food sources, people have more time and money to dedicate to other pursuits. A prime example is recreation. Most urban dwellers spend their free time partaking in some type of recreational activity, which in the western states necessarily means they pursue this past time on federally managed lands. In many cases these people are led to believe that exploring nature on “public lands” is somehow exclusive to the enjoyment of their activities. What they fail to recognize is that these lands were authorized for multiple uses, cattle grazing among them, in addition to other natural resource uses. This lack of education creates the perception of conflict, and thus a failure to understand that the places they visit have long been working landscapes, and the source of the protein they purchase at retail outlets for a good home cooked meal, dinner on the town or a quick fast food bite.
NMCGA, during its 102 years, has educated and advocated on behalf of our industry to keep its members and other producers on the ground and frequently ahead of the curve. And its members in turn, have also fought the battles near their ranches and beyond. In light of my previous comments I believe that we must continue our efforts and commit to re-double them. To bring the point home, at a recent community meeting I overheard a state legislator state disparagingly, “we’re not all cowboys”, in reference to the rural county from which that legislator hails. That statement tells me that enormous educational opportunities are at hand, at home and on the road. And you know what they say about education, that it’s not easily unlearned. So go forth we must, and go forth we will. Our families, livelihoods, customs and culture depend on it, and everyone who loves beef, whether they realize it today or not.
God Bless & hasta luego,
José Varela López