Friday, January 04, 2013

Lujan Grisham Appointed to House Budget Committee and Elected President of the Democratic Freshman Class of the 113th Congress

A warm congratulations to Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham for her swearing into the 113th Congress that occured yesterday.

Two press releases from Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham:

Today, U.S. Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM-01) announced she won a prized seat on the House Budget Committee.

“I worked hard to get on the Budget Committee to ensure that the first district receives the investments it needs. With the fiscal challenges continuing, the committee is crucial to deciding whether we will invest our way out of this recovery or we will cut our way out. I will work to develop and implement budget choices that reflect our priorities and values; get people back to work; and ensure a bright future for our children. That starts with strong investments in health care, education, and energy, as well as infrastructure. I look forward to working with Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen from Maryland and all the members of the Budget committee.”

The Budget Committee is responsible for developing the annual budget resolution which sets forth the levels of spending, revenue, the deficit or surplus, and public debt. The budget resolution also creates parameters within which Congress can consider legislation dealing with spending and revenue. The Budget Committee impacts all issues from Defense and Veterans Affairs’ to Education and Health Care policy.

Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM-01) represents all of Torrance County parts of Bernalillo, Sandoval, Santa Fe, and Valencia Counties. She additionally serves on the House Committee on Agriculture in the 113th Congress.

Also this exciting news was sent out by the Congresswoman:

Today, Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM-01) was elected by her fellow freshman Democratic members to serve as President of their Freshman Class for the second session of the 113th Congress. Rep. Lujan Grisham was the only female elected to be Class President.

As President of the Democratic Freshman Class, Rep. Lujan Grisham will work with her freshman colleagues and House Democratic leadership to formulate policy agendas and legislative priorities. She will also serve as a representative to House Leadership on behalf of her freshman classmates. “I’m excited to take on this leadership position,” said Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham. “I am so proud of the Freshman Class. We come to this institution at a challenging time, but I know we are ready and looking to ensure it responds to the needs of the American people once again. I will work with my colleagues and our leadership team to make sure we are unified in our commitment to addressing the priorities of middle class families – from Social Security and Medicare to education and rising health care costs.”

January 4, 2013 at 01:04 PM in Agriculture, Michelle Lujan Grisham | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, October 03, 2011

Santa Fe's Salazar Elementary to Host Harvest Celebration at Salazar Green, A Sustainable Food Project Supported by Earth Care

On Thursday, October 13th, from 5:00 to 7:00 PM, Salazar Elementary in Santa Fe will celebrate the bounty from their school garden by hosting a dinner from the garden for families and friends. The evening of community and simple pleasures will include live music, fresh bread from the horno, student tours of the garden and a gallery of garden art.

The garden is part of the school's Salazar Green landscape project, which opened in May of 2010, and includes a track + field and community + garden. The project's main focus was to design a space that could help to reverse the rising rates of childhood diabetes and obesity by encouraging positive habits of physical health and nutrition.

"At Salazar, we’re making a special effort to give children and their families opportunities to work and play in our excellent outdoor space, and to take care of living things," said Mollie S. Toll, Science Literacy Coach at the school.

The school garden program is supported by local non-profit Earth Care, which was recently awarded a renewal grant from AmeriCorps via the Corporation for National and Community Service to continue its Food Cadre program for a second year. The grant provides 14 full-time positions for AmeriCorps volunteers to work with schools, nonprofits and local government to strengthen the local food system in Santa Fe County.

The mission of the Food Cadre program is to build a sustainable and just local food system that addresses the needs of the environment and of the community’s most vulnerable populations. The goals of the program are to build a local sustainable food system, involving youth throughout the process; to bring the food system back into balance with the ecological system that supports it; and to increase access to healthy food, sustainability resources and nutrition education for underserved communities.

According to Bianca Sopoci-Belknap, Associate Director of Earth Care, "New Mexico ranks 46th in the nation for children living in poverty. The natural innovation and problem solving skills of young people are needed to improve this situation. Our approach with this program is to support the positive development of young people in a way that also benefits their nutrition, environment, local economy, and community."

The Food Cadre is hosted by Earth Care in partnership with the City of Santa Fe, Santa Fe County, Santa Fe Public Schools, Cooking with Kids, the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market Institute, and the Santa Fe Alliance.

Santa Fe Public School Gardens
Earth Care’s AmeriCorps members have been working with students, parents and teachers at seven school sites, including Salazar Elemenary, to implement school gardens. A story on Earth Care's website explains that Salazar Green’s garden is the first garden officially installed by the Santa Fe Public School District and hopes to be exemplary for future school gardens and those with already existing programs. The garden supplies food to students through a variety of ways including Cooking with Kids, lunch programs, and in-garden tasting and to the surrounding community through the annual fall Harvest Fest.

The Garden and its facilities act as a classroom for all students at Salazar. At present, all K-6 classes spend an hour a week with the Sustainability and Garden Coordinator delving into the world of food and sustainability practices in an experiential and fun manner. The objective of these endeavors is to promote a local, just and sustainable food system and human system for all in the region.

You can keep up with garden activities at Salazar Elementary at the Salazar Verde Garden Blog. For further information, contact Science Literacy Coach Mollie Toll (670-8658), or principal Margo Shirley (467-3902).

Earth Care needs the help of the Santa Fe community to meet the matching funds requirement of $70,000 for its grant from AmeriCorps. Each dollar invested in this program leverages double the funds coming in to our community from the state and federal government. Donations can be made at www.earthcare.org or by calling 505.983.6896.

October 3, 2011 at 11:03 AM in Agriculture, Education, Food and Drink, Santa Fe, Youth | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mark Your Calendars: Sustainability Studies Program Events

From UNM Sustainable Studies Program:
Here are some upcoming events you may be interested in so mark your calendars.

Creating Political Will Workshop
Guest Speaker: Mark Reynolds, Executive Director of the Citizens Climate Lobby
Saturday, August 6, 2011
UNM SUB, Room Acoma A
1:30 PM to 4:30 PM; Picnic follows 5-7 PM outside of the SUB

Learn more at www.citizensclimatelobby.org/
For more info contact Maggie Seeley, [email protected] or 505-268-3339

Open Space Urban Farm Festival
A Celebration of Open Space, Urban Agriculture, Local Food, and Community
Sunday, September 18, 2011; 10 AM to 4 PM
Open Space Visitor Center, 6500 Coors Blvd. NW 
Between Montano and Paseo del Norte at the end of Bosque Meadows Road

Learn more at www.cabq.gov/openspace/UrbanFarmFestival.html
For more info contact Kim Selving, [email protected] or 505-897-8831

July 26, 2011 at 07:24 AM in Agriculture, Climate, Environment, Events | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 03, 2011

FoodCorps Seeking Southern NM Applicants to Create School Gardens, Get Local Food Into School Cafeterias

FoodCorps, a brand new and much anticipated national service program for young leades, has opened applications for its first class of service members. Those selected will dedicate one year of full-time public service in school food systems -- sourcing local food for school cafeterias, expanding nutrition education programs and building and tending school gardens.

FoodCorps in New Mexico seeks up to 10 passionate individuals beginning in August 2011. Two service members will be based out of La Semilla Food Center, an organization working to develop a healthy, self-reliant and sustainable food system in the Paso del Norte region of southern New Mexico and El Paso, Texas.

If you have any interest in helping to create school gardens and exploring local food sourcing in Doña Ana and El Paso Counties please consider applying for FoodCorps. For more information or to apply for FoodCorps please visit www.food-corps.org or contact Vanessa Apodaca at [email protected] For more information about La Semilla Food Center please visit http://www.lasemillafoodcenter.org or email [email protected]

March 3, 2011 at 04:06 PM in Agriculture, Food and Drink, Las Cruces, Youth | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Rep. Nunez Bill to Abolish Water Quality Control Commission Fails on Stalemate in HENRC

AndyNunez HB 225, sponsored by Rep. Andy Nunez (Decline to State-Hatch), failed to be tabled or passed this morning in the House Energy and Natural Resources Commmittee (HENRC), on a tie vote of 6-6. The proposed legislation would abolish the Water Quality Control Commission and put the Secretary of the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department and some other agencies in charge of all WQCC duties, including rulemaking. This bill also proposes to give the legislature the power to review and veto critical water quality protections.

Given the make-up of the committee -- six Democrats, five Republicans and one Decline to State who typically votes with the Republicans -- Chair Brian Egolf noted that he expects many other bills taken up by HENRC to end up in a similar stalemate. Rep. Egolf asked the committee members for advice on how to handle the situation fairly. On HB 225, he decided that a subset of the committee will work with Rep. Nunez to see if an amended bill might be crafted that has a chance of breaking the stalemate.

HB 225 previously received a Do Pass from the House Agriculture and Water Resources Committee (HAGC) on a 4-3 vote. Reps. Cathrynn Brown (R-Carlsbad), Dona Irwin (D-Deming), Terry McMillan (R-Las Cruces) and Don Trip (R-Socorro) voted yes; Reps. Joe Cervantes (D-Las Cruces), Joni Gutierrez (D-Las Cruces) and James Madalena (D-Jemez Pueblo) voted no; Reps. Ray Begaye (D-Shiprock), Zack Cook (R-Ruidoso) and Larry Larranaga (R-Albuquerque) were excused.

More of Backlash v. Environmental Regulations
The effort to dissolve the WQCC comes just months after the Commission gave environmentalists two major victories -- establishing tougher rules for the dairy industry and implementing special protections for hundreds of miles of rivers and streams, lakes and wetlands in federal wilderness areas around the state.

The New Mexico Cattle Growers Association (NMCGA) filed a motion with the WQCC to stop the new headwaters rule, even though ranchers are exempt. WildEarth Guardians say the rule designating 199 perennial headwater streams as Outstanding National Resource Waters is a hard-won, common-sense regulation to protect stream quality. The rule was approved by the state Water Quality Control Commission December 14 in a 7-3 vote. When the WQCC said it would put off a vote on the motion, the NMCGA said it would appeal the rule to the New Mexico Court of Appeals.

The Susana Martinez administration initially refused to publish the new rule requiring dairies to protect groundwater, but a coalition of environmental groups filed suit in the New Mexico Supreme Court and won. The court ruled Martinez had violated the law by trying to use her executive powers to halt the printing of regulations, thus stopping the regulations from being enacted.

A total of 44 different dairy operators gave now-Gov. Martinez almost $50,000 during her gubernatorial campaign. It was later discovered that a lobbyist for the dairy industry helped Gov. Martinez write the executive order that tried to stop publication of the dairy rules and other environmental rules.

You might call HB 225 part of a backlash instituted by Gov. Susana Martinez and her new crony Rep. Andy Nunez -- who left the Dem Party in a huff after he lost the chairmanship of the HAGC -- against hard-fought environmental rules promulgated before Martinez took office.

Nunez Seeks Revenge
Nunez is one of a handful of Dems who publicly supported ousting Rep. Ben Lujan (D-Santa Fe) as House Speaker in favor of Rep. Joe Cervantes (D-Las Cruces). When it was clear the attempted ouster would fail, all House Dems except Nunez voted for Rep. Lujan. Rep. Nunez voted present. A few days later he changed his voter registration from Democratic to Decline to State.

In the 2010 election cycle, Rep. Nunez got about 32% -- or $17,700 -- of his campaign donations from interests related to oil, gas and chemicals, as well as $2,775 from agriculture and ranching interests, including dairy farmers. 

February 14, 2011 at 01:28 PM in Agriculture, Environment, NM Legislature 2011, Regulation, Susana Martinez, Water Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Terry Brunner Guest Blog: New Mexico Poised to Benefit from Biofuels Efforts

TerryBrunner This is a guest blog by Terry Brunner, who serves as State Director of USDA Rural Development New Mexico.

The recent announcement that the Abenegoa ethanol plant will reopen in Portales, NM is a positive indicator that New Mexico is expanding its role in the production of biofuels. Abenegoa will use sorghum grown in the Eastern New Mexico region to produce ethanol fuel.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development-New Mexico shares the President’s vision for a revitalized rural economy that creates real opportunity for growth and prosperity that centers on our ability to add innovative technologies, open new markets for crops, and better utilize our natural resources. Our New Mexico rural communities, like Portales, are on the forefront of addressing their economic development by pursuing the potential of the biofuels industry.

Why Biofuels?
Why is there so much emphasis on biofuels production and how exactly does New Mexico fit into the picture?

Today’s energy markets can be volatile and our dependence on imported oil has increased. The United States Energy Information Administration estimates that by 2035, U.S. Energy consumption will have increased by another 50%. Thirty years ago, imports comprised 28% of our oil consumption -- now imports have risen to approximately 60%.

Congress recognized the risks associated with our dependency on imported oil and in 2007 enhanced our nation’s Renewable Fuel Standard with a goal of producing 36 billion gallons of biofuels by 2022 with 21 billion of those gallons generated from advanced biofuels. Today the United States produces approximately 12 billion gallons of ethanol biofuels and around 800 million gallons of biodiesel.

The U.S. is not alone in pursuing biofuels. Many nations see an increase in mandates for biofuels usage as a method to insulate their economies from volatile oil markets and to use cleaner energy. Some may doubt our capacity to meet the challenges of incorporating biofuels into our energy portfolio but it’s a challenge worth pursuing which could result in diversifying transportation energy sources, enhancing agricultural producers and reinvigorating our rural economies.

To meet our biofuels requirements we must strengthen the links in the production chain of organic matter into fuel. That entails increasing the number of biorefineries and expanding the cultivation of biofuel feed stocks, such as: corn, sorghum, wood and algae. Designing the highest quality fuel for the market requires constant technological innovation. As well, establishing distribution points and fueling stations are essential links in the chain.

Rural Development Biofuel Support in NM
USDA Rural Development is prepared to support the production of biofuels in a variety of ways. We offer incentives for new construction of biorefineries or conversion of traditional refineries into biorefineries. We offer payments to the biofuels producer and much-needed research and development funding into biofuels technologies. USDA Rural Development offers financial assistance to businesses for the installation of blender fuel pumps at local service stations.

New Mexico could contribute substantially to our Nation’s production of biofuels. From a resources standpoint, New Mexico offers piñon and juniper trees that have been removed as part of forest health efforts that could be used as a biofuels feedstock. Sorghum is the third largest crop produced by New Mexico farmers and can be converted to ethanol.

Our vast underground reserves of brackish water provide the potential medium for the cultivation of algae for conversion into fuel. USDA Rural Development recently provided a $50 million loan guarantee to Sapphire Energy for the creation of an algae-based biofuels plant in Columbus, NM.

Much of the transportation of biofuels from the Midwest to the West Coast travels directly through New Mexico by rail or on Interstate 40. That puts our state in the position of tapping directly into the biofuels distribution routes.

Finally, we are all well aware of our state’s historical capacity to offer groundbreaking research in developing state-of-the-art technology. The creation of biofuels for tomorrow’s markets requires advanced technical research and development. Our National Laboratories, higher education institutions and private sector certainly can offer their resources to the development of advanced biofuels.

New Mexico’s combination of natural resources, transportation infrastructure and technological know-how puts our State in a great strategic position to pursue the development of a biofuels economy. Whether we are talking about communities like Columbus or Portales; our rural communities stand to benefit from an emerging biofuels and renewable energy economy and USDA Rural Development is certainly ready to support their efforts.

President Barack Obama appointed Terry Brunner New Mexico State Director for USDA Rural Development on September 9, 2009.

If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link at the upper left-hand corner of the page.

January 24, 2011 at 05:25 PM in Agriculture, Energy, Environment, Rural Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

1/21: Freedom to Farm Panel at UNM to Discuss Impact of Genetically Engineered Crops

Dragonfarm The young farmers from Dragon Farm in the South Valley in Albuquerque invite you to a discussion on the potential impact of contamination by genetically engineered crops on our local food system. The panel discussion will be held at 7:00 PM on Friday, January 21, at the University of New Mexico Student Union Building, Ballroom A.

We are invited to learn what we can do to preserve our freedom to farm, save seeds and feed our community and to learn about efforts in the New Mexico State Legislature in regards to this issue. Some discussion will center on HB 46 and SB 51, sponsored by Sen. Stephen Fischmann (D-Mesilla Park) and Rep. Paul Bandy (R-Aztec), which would provide protection for farmers from liability over possession of genetically engineered product.

Participating in the panel will be experts and advocates on this issue, including Isaura Andaluz, Michael Reed and Dan Young. Several state legislators have also been invited, Sens. Tim Keller, Linda Lopez and Jerry Ortiz y Pino, and Rep. Miguel Garcia. You can RSVP for the event via Facebook

If you went to the Downtown Growers Market this summer in Albuquerque, perhaps you bought some delicious greens at the Dragon Farm booth.

January 19, 2011 at 09:54 AM in Agriculture, Events, NM Legislature 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Citizens Coalition Sues Gov. Susana Martinez in NM Supreme Court Over Printing of New Dairy Rule

The Citizens Coalition filed suit yesterday in New Mexico Supreme Court against Governor Susana Martinez, the Secretary of the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED), and the New Mexico State Records Administrator in response to the move to halt printing of the adopted dairy regulation in the State Register. Papers were served on the above offices yesterday afternoon, according to the Coalition. Members of the Citizens Coalition are: Caballo Concerned Citizens, Citizens For Dairy Reform, Rio Valle Concerned Citizens, Rio Grand Chapter - Sierra Club, Food And Water Watch and Amigos Bravos.

The Citizens Coalition, represented by the New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC), petitioned the court for a writ of mandamus to compel the Governor and NMED Secretary, F. David Martin, to comply with existing law, and to compel Sandra Jaramillo of the State Records Center to codify and publish the dairy regulation in the State Register.

“The Governor and her staff cannot disregard the law,” said Jonathan Block, NMELC Staff Attorney, in a statement released yesterday. “When the Board adopts a rule and files it with the State Records Center, the law requires the rule to be published in the State Register. That’s how regulations become enforceable law. The Governor cannot circumvent the law or expand her powers by executive order.”

Gov. Martinez's executive order was put into effect just minutes after her swearing in at midnight on January 1st, 2011. The order imposes a ninety-day hold on all “proposed or pending” rules. However, the dairy rule had already been adopted by the Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC) in December 2010, making it a final rule and outside the scope of the executive order.

Image_preview
Aerial view of manure lagoons at megadairy in Vado, NM near Las Cruces. The tiny dots are cows (larger view).

The petition filed in the Supreme Court yesterday argues that neither the Governor nor the Environment Department has any authority to adopt, repeal or amend rules, and that the Governor and the Secretary have unconstitutionally usurped legislative power and interfered with the appellate jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals.

“The WQCC followed a well-established public process that allows for fair and careful evaluation of large amounts of technical data and the representation of many points of view”, said Rachel Conn, Policy Director at Amigos Bravos, a member of the Citizens Coalition. “This process was used to adopt the new dairy regulations and it must be used to remove an old regulation,” Conn continued. “The Governor is attempting to eliminate this open and public process.”

The petition requests an order compelling Ms. Jaramillo to codify and publish the rule in the State Register in accordance with law, an order compelling Secretary Martin to rescind the purported cancellation of the filing of the rule, and an order compelling the Governor and Secretary to refrain from further interfering with the lawful process by which rules are filed.

“We are just trying to make sure that the rule of law prevails,” said Jerry Nivens of Caballo Concerned Citizens, another member of the Coalition. “We assume that a former prosecutor would also seek to ensure that she and her staff follow the law.”

The Citizens Coalition provided the following background on this issue:

  • In 2008, the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) denied a dairy permit for the first time in the State’s history. This action (which was eventually reversed) galvanized the industry and they went to the Legislature seeking to ensure that no dairy would ever again be denied a permit.
  • The 2009 Legislature passed SB 206, which ordered NMED to develop industry-specific rules for the dairy and copper mining industries. Because of the complex and time-consuming nature of such an effort, NMED was given permission to do one set of regulations at a time; dairy went first.

  • During Spring 2009, NMED held numerous public meetings in dairy counties, primarily in eastern New Mexico, seeking comment from residents and dairy operators.

  • In Summer 2009, NMED issued a preliminary draft regulation. The dairy industry objected and NMED set up a stakeholder process to fully debate the merits of the proposal. Stakeholders included NMED staff, representatives from the dairy industry and members of the Citizens Coalition. The meetings went on for several months and resulted in significant concessions to industry. Nevertheless, industry still complained about key portions of the regulations involving monitoring wells and synthetic liners, even though these represent standard practice on the majority of dairies in New Mexico.

  • After several more drafts, a final draft regulation went to the Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC). Industry and the Citizens Coalition presented their recommended changes as well. All parties submitted substantial amounts of technical documentation to the WQCC. The WQCC held several weeks of public meetings involving public testimony as well as expert witness testimony and cross-examination of experts by all parties (transcripts of the hearing fill 10 volumes).

  • In December 2010, the WQCC adopted a final regulation, which incorporated some but not all of the changes suggested by industry and the Citizens Coalition. The adopted regulation, along with the proposed Statement of Reasons (the legal and technical basis for approval), were sent to the State Records Office for printing, at which time they would go into effect. Governor Martinez then issued her executive order stopping the printing.

A recent article on the Change.org Sustainable Food website noted that:

According to the New Mexico State Environment Department, more than two-thirds of the groundwater near dairy factory farms is contaminated with nitrates. When looking at all the possible pollutants coming out of dairy factory farms, that figure skyrockets to 90 percent. That's right, 90 percent of groundwater near dairy factory farms is polluted. This pollution is nothing to scoff at, especially in such a dry state like New Mexico where water is a precious resource.

Why is the Martinez administration so hot on stopping the dairy regulation? Jim Williams at KUNM explains:

... when KUNM decided to check Martinez's contributions for the 2010 campaign, we found that the dairy industry, in the form of 44 different dairy operators, had given her nearly 50-thousand dollars. Her opponent, Democrat Diane Denish, got one contribution of 5 thousand dollars. Richardson didn't get a single contribution from the dairy industry in eight years.

Click to sign a petition to Gov. Martinez telling her not to scrap the dairy regulation.

January 14, 2011 at 11:33 AM in Agriculture, Environment, Legal Issues, Susana Martinez, Water Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

USDA Awards Funds to Close the Gap in Rural Food Distribution in New Mexico

Yesterday, USDA Rural Development State Director Terry Brunner was in El Morro, New Mexico to present a certificate of funding obligation to the Farm to Table non-profit organization of Santa Fe. The funding will be used by Farm to Table to help develop a better strategy to improve the delivery of food to small rural communities in New Mexico. The ceremony was held in El Moro to showcase the problem of food delivery to small rural communities in the state.

The $142,382 Rural Community Development Grant (RCDG) will be used by Farm to Table develop a training curriculum on cooperative development and management of food by cooperatives and stores around the state. The end result will see a better delivery of food to the smallest of communities in New Mexico.

During the presentation Brunner said, “Many people in New Mexico do not realize that the access to food in small communities is a major issue. It’s reported that one third of the counties in this state have low food access and New Mexico is the second most food insecure state in the nation.” Brunner added, “This funding from USDA will help Farm to Table work with local communities to address their food access issues.”

Farm to Table will develop guidelines to address three crucial challenges facing the delivery of food to small rural communities. The main challenges that face these communities include meat processing infrastructure, food safety and food storage/transportation.

The grant money will be used to contract professional services, including legal services to address specific needs and also on-site trainings tailored to the needs of each individual cooperative/mutually-owned business’s board of directors and management.

USDA Rural Development’s mission is to increase economic opportunity and improve the quality of life for rural residents. Rural Development fosters growth in homeownership, finances business development, and supports the creation of critical community and technology infrastructure. Further information on rural programs is available at any local USDA Rural Development office or by visiting USDA Rural Development’s web site at www.rurdev.usda.gov.

November 23, 2010 at 10:24 AM in Agriculture, Food and Drink, Rural Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 22, 2010

11/24: UNM Fair Trade Initiative Gathering to Support Farmworkers

Fair+tomato

You are invited to join members and supporters of The Fair Trade Initiative at the University of New Mexico who will gather at Trader Joe's in Uptown Albuquerque, 2200 Uptown Loop NE,  on Wednesday, Nov. 24, from 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM. The group will be offering its support for farmworkers and demanding that they receive a living wage. Click to read a letter from the group to Trader Joe's that outlines some of its concerns, and which you can use to express your views to the food chain.

The action is part of the National Supermarket Week of Action in solidarity with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.  The campaign is urging several national supermarket chains to help end forced labor, poverty wages and other human rights abuses faced by farmworkers harvesting tomatoes for the U.S. retail food industry. Students around the country are also involved in this campaign through the Student/Farmworker Alliance.

November 22, 2010 at 04:16 PM in Agriculture, Food and Drink | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Terry Brunner Guest Blog: 2010 Saw Record Funding for USDA Rural Development Projects

TerryBrunner This is a guest blog by Terry Brunner, who is the State Director for USDA Rural Development New Mexico.

Many facets of our nation’s economy need strengthening as we make our way through the economic recovery -- one of them is infrastructure. Improvements to our public systems, services, and facilities play a vital role in increasing economic activity.

During the fiscal year that ended on September 30, 2010, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development New Mexico office provided $384 million in infrastructure and business investments across New Mexico through our programs. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) played a large role in tripling our funding over previous years.

USDA investments made in wastewater treatment facilities, libraries, broadband and electric infrastructure (among other projects) provided immediate jobs in construction and some permanent positions. In addition to creating jobs, these investments help ensure the long-term sustainability of New Mexico communities by providing the infrastructure needed to improve our economy. Federal funding becomes increasingly more important as state and local governments contend with tight budgets.

Water and Wastewater
This fiscal year, USDA provided $54 million in funding for 28 clean drinking water systems and wastewater treatment projects in New Mexico. Some of these projects were small projects like the $56,000 grant provided to the Duranes y Gavilan water system in Rio Arriba County. Some were much larger, like the $26 million grant and loan provided to the Pueblo of Laguna. Imagine how life will change for Laguna Pueblo residents who lack water service for days or weeks and watch their water system’s pipes burst an average of four times every day.

Broadband
Broadband infrastructure is crucial to the survival of our communities. USDA Rural Development provided a $9.6 million ARRA loan and grant to Penasco Valley Telecom in Artesia, NM. With these funds, broadband service will be extended to farms, ranches and small businesses in rural Southeast New Mexico that currently do not have service. Farming and ranching are more than ever high tech activities and access to the latest information on prices, transportation, weather and other important data provided through the internet is crucial to the success of the agricultural community and their efforts to remain competitive internationally.

Home Loans
Three and a half years ago, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Yokom and their two young sons moved into a motor home after Mr. Yokom suffered a workplace injury which cost him his job in California. As they drove around the Southwest looking for a place to call home, they settled in Los Lunas, NM. The Yokoms qualified for and received a home loan from USDA to purchase a three bedroom home and 1/4 acre of land in Los Lunas. Since moving in, they’ve quickly become part of the fabric of that community -- the boys are involved in Cub Scouts and the family is getting to know their new neighbors. In FY ’10, USDA Rural Development helped more than 11,000 New Mexico families like the Yokoms find a place to call home and make a living.

Investments in NM Businesses
USDA Rural Development also funds investments in New Mexico businesses. For example, we provided a $12,500 grant to Milk and Honey, LLC in Santa Fe, NM. They used the funds to improve the marketing and packaging of their soaps and lotions. The owner of this local business, Daven Lee, received strong responses to her growing product line from local and regional retailers. She hopes that with an increase in orders, she will be adding staff as soon as this winter.

Economic Recovery
These are just a few examples of USDA Rural Development’s efforts in New Mexico during 2010. We not only helped foster individual businesses and helped people find a place to live, but we made critical infrastructure investments that hopefully lay the foundation for the future success and economic recovery of New Mexico’s communities.

President Barack Obama appointed Terry Brunner New Mexico State Director for USDA Rural Development on September 9, 2009.

This is a guest blog by Terry Brunner. We've previously posted a number of stories about the activities of USDA Rural Development. You can see most of them here.

If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link at the upper left-hand corner of the page.

October 20, 2010 at 02:42 PM in Agriculture, Broadband, Business, Economy, Populism, Energy, Guest Blogger, Housing, Native Americans, Obama Administration, Rural Issues, Water Issues | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Teague Unveils New Bill to Promote New Mexico Agriculture

Teague at Ogaz Farm
Teague visits Ogaz Farm

Over the weekend, Congressman Harry Teague attended the Hatch Chile Parade and Festival and visited the Ogaz Chile Farm to meet with local farmers and producers to discuss his newest piece of agriculture legislation, the Specialty Crop Enhancement Act. According to Teague's office, the Act will increase the funding available for the USDA’s Specialty Crop Block grant program in efforts to encourage the competitiveness of local specialty crops. Some of the issues that will be addressed as a result of the legislation include improving efficiency and reducing costs of distribution systems, investing in specialty crop research, and fostering organic and sustainable production practices.

“Not only are New Mexican specialty crops a part of our vibrant culture, they are also crucial to the growth and success of the local economy. Increased markets for chile and other specialty crops will benefit local farmers and create local jobs,” Teague said in a statement released today. “By bolstering the Specialty Crop grant program, we give our local farmers and agriculture producers the boost they need to grow and succeed in the market.”

The bill introduced by Teague is an amendment to the Specialty Crops Competiveness Act of 2004 that would double the amount of funds of the Commodity Credit Corporation available for specialty crop block grants. During the 2009 fiscal year, programs implemented through this law helped to promote the agriculture sector in New Mexico through initiatives like New Mexico State University’s efforts to provide consumers with information about safe packaging and the time-frame needed to freeze roasted long green chile. Another program funded a fulltime New Mexico Department of Agriculture employee to enhance the competitiveness of all specialty crops at distributor, national and international trade shows.

September 8, 2010 at 07:21 PM in Agriculture, NM-02 Congressional Race 2010, Rep. Harry Teague (NM-02) | Permalink | Comments (0)