by Pat Boone
New Mexico Cattle Grower's Association President's Message
Dear Fellow Members & Industry Supporters,
Each month as I sit down to write this letter my intention is to share with you the issues we are working on and how these issues may impact our individual businesses and the industry at large, not to mention our customs and culture. Needless to say, most of what I write is not positive, but that is simply a reflection of the challenges that we face. So, for this month at least, I’ll share the positive news up front in an effort to be the glass half-full kind of guy.
As you are keenly aware, cattle price levels continue to be very attractive compared to years past and the demand for beef remains strong. Couple that with the moisture we’ve received during the second half of the year, and things are really looking up. Obviously, overall cattle numbers are smaller than before the drought but the fact that we’ve weathered the latest challenges bodes well for our collective state of mind.
Also, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has determined that there is no need at this time to either list or designate habitat for the dunes sagebrush lizard, wolverine, lynx nor cutthroat trout in New Mexico. While we know that the radical environmentalists will likely challenge the FWS decisions it is heartening to know that the FWS actually reads some of the listing petitions submitted to them. On the other hand, the FWS didn’t feel obligated to respond to our petition opposing the critical habitat designation of over 700,000 acres in New Mexico and Arizona for the jaguar although it is widely known that there is no permanent jaguar population in the Southwest, therefore the “critical habitat” designation is unwarranted. We will be reminding the FWS that they need to read all their mail and send the requisite responses.
On the horizon we have two evolving issues that come to mind. The first is the Beef Checkoff Enhancement. As you know, there has been a push to add an additional dollar to the program for each head of livestock sold, to increase the visibility of our products to the American consumer. Promotion of the industry has declined over time as inflation and other factors have diminished the ability to consistently reach the consuming public. Unfortunately, not all industry associations are aligned on how the checkoff enhancement monies should be spent. As a result, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and its Secretary Tom Vilsack, has proposed to use a 1996 legislative act to administer any supplemental checkoff funds. While I have questioned how the current beef checkoff program has been administered in the recent past, I am also acutely aware that the USDA does not always serve the interests of producers and would likely only further polarize and politicize the industry disagreements.
The second issue that has come to the forefront during this election season has to do with special designations on federally administered lands. New Mexico’s two US Senators are now promoting permanent protection for the Columbine-Hondo wilderness study area in Taos County through Senate Bill 776. It is stated that this proposed wilderness will create economic opportunity to the surrounding communities, an argument that is easily debunked. There are several studies that show the opposite effect, but the bigger question is whether we will ever learn that you cannot preserve a landscape. You can certainly conserve a landscape through management because it is ever changing, but preservation is futile. Land managers, like ranchers and others instinctively know this, but people who only visit the land don’t understand the dynamics of what it takes to create and maintain a healthy landscape. My concern is that this irresponsible “permanent protection” ideology is going to subvert the responsible land use that New Mexico depends on to maintain our economic stability.
Finally, I hope that more folks send us a few electronic photos, old and new, that symbolize your ranches and families as we assemble a slideshow to reflect on the first hundred years of our association and the people that allow it to be. We look forward to showing your photos, and seeing you in person, at the upcoming Joint Stockmen’s Convention on December 4-7.
Wishing you and yours a blessed Thanksgiving, and hoping to see you all in Albuquerque at the 2014 Joint Stockmen’s Convention where we will be celebrating a century of the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association.
José Varela López