Monday, May 14, 2012

USDA Taps Lawrence Rael for Top Post in New Mexico

RaelMay 14, 2012 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced the appointment for State Executive Director (SED) of the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) in New Mexico. The secretary has tapped Lawrence Rael to serve the Obama Administration in this capacity.

The Farm Service Agency administers federal farm policy as laid out by Congress through a network of federal, state and county offices. FSA programs are designed to improve the economic stability of the agricultural industry and help agricultural producers adjust production to meet demand. Economically, the desired result of these programs is a steady price range for agricultural commodities for both producer and consumer.

As the State Executive Director for the New Mexico FSA, Rael will oversee all aspects of federal farm program delivery for an agency that employs nearly 1700 people and on average, issues more than $100 million annually in commodity, conservation, disaster and credit benefits to farmers and ranchers across the state.

“FSA plays a vital role in the economic viability of rural America. As the State Executive Director in New Mexico, I have a significant responsibility to insure the Agency is making wise use of taxpayer dollars and that our employees are provided the fiscal and human resources necessary to efficiently and effectively deliver our programs to the state’s agricultural producers,” said Rael.

Rael is a native New Mexican and life-long public servant. Rael served as the Executive Director for the Mid-Region Council of Governments (MRCOG) for eight years. While holding this position he was responsible for the comprehensive planning and development programs for twenty-seven local governments in the region. Prior to working with MRCOG, he spent twelve years as Chief Administrative Officer for the City of Albuquerque. While there, he coordinated the City of Albuquerque’s purchase of the Elena Gallegos land grant to preserve the area along the base of the Sandia Mountains, helped expand the Petroglyph National Monument, and preserve wetlands in the Rio Grande Valley. Rael also served as a Legislative Assistant to Senator Jeff Bingaman, Acting Deputy Secretary for the New Mexico Transportation Department, and State Program Director for New Mexico Employment Security Dept. He received his degree from the University of New Mexico.

Rael and his wife Kim have three children and reside in Los Ranchos.

May 14, 2012 at 04:08 PM in Lawrence Rael, Obama Administration, Rural Issues | Permalink | Comments (3)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Bill That Funds N.M. Public Lands and Other Initiatives Sent to President

An excellent Christmas present for New Mexico. Should provide some jobs at least to get a few people working again.And if anyone has driven through some of our State Forest there is alot of downed and dead standing trees. The $402 million should help that hazardous condition within the state.

U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall voted for final approval of a spending measure that funds important public lands initiatives in New Mexico.

The Senate today approved the fiscal year 2012 Omnibus Spending Bill and will now send it to the President to be signed into law.

“By improving the health of our national forests and protecting our state’s public lands, the funding in this bill is an important investment in New Mexico and its people,” Bingaman said.

“New Mexico's public lands are an essential part of our heritage and provide a livelihood for folks across the state,” said Udall.  “This bill provides critical funding to help sustain New Mexico's enchanting landscapes and special places.”

The bill included funding for the following New Mexico initiatives:

  • $3.432 million for operations at the Valles Caldera National Preserve
  •  $3.4 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to acquire the Miranda Canyon property in Taos County by the Carson National Forest.
  • $8.533 million for the Institute of American Indian and Alaska Native Culture and Arts in Santa Fe.
  • $40 million for the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Fund – a program that Senator Bingaman authored in 2009.  Two New Mexico projects will benefit from this level of funding: the ongoing Southwest Jemez Project and a highly-ranked project in the Zuni Mountains within the Cibola National Forest will have a better chance at getting selected during the second round of national selections.
  • $1 million for the Livestock Loss Demonstration Program. A portion of the funds will go to New Mexico to compensate ranchers for livestock depredations by Mexican wolves and other means of reducing conflicts between cattle and wolves.

Also at Bingaman and Udall’s urging, the final bill includes $402 million for the Forest Service’s Hazardous Fuels and State Fire Assistance programs, which help mitigate the risks of severe wildfires.

December 18, 2011 at 10:00 AM in Land Issues, Rural Issues, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, Sen. Tom Udall | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Heinrich Offers Plan To Save Jobs and Support Infrastructure in Rural New Mexico Counties

220px-Martin_HeinrichU.S Representative Martin Heinrich (NM-1), joined by cosponsors Reps. Ben Ray Luján (NM-3), Jim Matheson (UT-2), and Shelley Berkley (NV-1), introduced a plan to extend the life of two initiatives that direct millions of dollars in revenue to New Mexico counties to support local employment in schools, county maintenance programs, forest management, and other critical county programs. The plan is a House companion bill to U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman’s County Payments Reauthorization Act of 2011.

“Maintaining the economic strength of our rural communities means safer roads, better schools, and thousands of local jobs,” said Rep. Heinrich. “Secure Rural Schools and PILT are successful programs that ensure that counties have the resources they need to provide critical services New Mexicans rely on.”

Taos County Commissioner and President of the New Mexico Association of Counties Andrew Chavez praised the plan, "Representative Heinrich is recognized for his efforts to secure funding for New Mexico’s rural communities. Both the Secure Rural Schools and Payment in Lieu of Taxes programs provide critical financial resources to support high quality schools and infrastructure in rural counties. I applaud Rep. Heinrich for leading the fight to keep these programs authorized and funded.”

The plan would:

  • Extend for five years the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act – a program that supports counties that rely economically on national forest lands.  New Mexico counties would receive as much as $58 million over the next five years under the plan.
  • Fully-fund the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program for an additional five years.  PILT compensates counties for federal land that cannot be a source of property taxes.  On average, New Mexico counties share about $35 million in PILT payments annually.

“Quality schools and reliable infrastructure are the cornerstone of any successful community,” said Rep. Luján.  “With rural communities often facing unique challenges, it is critical to continue PILT and the Secure Rural Schools program to provide them with vital resources that strengthen our schools and invest in roads and maintenance projects.”

The Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act supports local public schools, funds county road improvement and maintenance projects, creates jobs conducting forest restoration and improvement projects in and around National Forests, and supports local initiatives to reduce the risk from wildfires.  The Act was designed to provide more predictable levels of funding than what would be provided under a 1908 law that gives 25 percent of revenues from National Forest lands to local counties to support their schools and roads.

Senator Bingaman led a successful bipartisan effort in 2008 to fund the program through fiscal year 2011, and now leads the effort in the Senate to once again reauthorize the program.  The 2008 reauthorization, which expired in September, provided more than $1.75 billion to counties across the country, including more than $250 million in collaborative forest and watershed restoration, wildfire risk reduction, and other community forestry programs.

Under the 2008 law, payments to New Mexico counties were initially increased dramatically and then—like all other counties under the program—were moderately decreased at a rate of 10 percent each year.  Under the new plan introduced in the Senate and the House, the annual reduction would be eased to 5 percent each year.

The plan would also ensure that PILT does not have to be subjected to the annual appropriations process – a process that for years underfunded the program and shortchanged New Mexico counties.  As part of the 2008 effort, PILT was guaranteed full-funding through the current fiscal year.  Under the new plan, PILT would remain automatically fully-funded until 2017.  New Mexico is typically the number one or number two beneficiary of PILT payments.

December 8, 2011 at 01:30 PM in Jobs, Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01), Rural Issues | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Terry Brunner Guest Blog: Let’s Get to Work on Jobs Proposal

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

There is no doubt that these are economically tough times. And they’re very tough for the many New Mexicans who are looking for work.  So we’ve got to work together to keep finding ways to help the unemployed in the short term and rebuild the middle class over the long term. 

President Obama has focused on that challenge since his first day in office.  And it’s why he addressed Congress last week to lay out the way forward to grow the economy and create jobs. 

He knows there are common-sense steps we can take right now. We’ve got roads, bridges, rail lines, and water systems across New Mexico that need rebuilding to help lay the groundwork for economic expansion. We’ve got private companies right here in New Mexico with the equipment and know-how to do it. We’ve got thousands of unemployed New Mexico construction workers ready to get their hands dirty.

And we can help put these folks to work now if both parties in Washington can come together to make it happen. 

The President wants to extend the payroll tax cut for working families, putting an extra 1,000 dollars in the pockets of those families. It is one of the best ways to increase consumer demand – creating more work for our businesses and more jobs for our workforce. 

This approach received bipartisan support before and needs and Republicans and Democrats working together again to continue it. 

The President wants to make it easier for small businesses to put people, especially our returning veterans, back to work by offering tax credits for each new job created by small businesses-the engine of our economy. 

We at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development have been working with the President to pursue some of these same strategies and assisting rural communities by providing $800 million during this Administration in New Mexico infrastructure and business support.

Basic infrastructure such as electricity, water systems, broadband and housing supports the economic development of our rural communities. USDA Rural Development creates and sustains rural job opportunities and supports entrepreneurs from the micro-enterprise level to large-scale manufacturing, so those who live in rural communities don’t have move away to support their families and pay their mortgages. 

In partnership with other public and private sector businesses, Rural Development programs have created or saved hundreds of thousands of American jobs and continues to improve the economic climate of rural areas by helping create additional job opportunities for our under-served rural areas and populations.

Folks in rural America know that in difficult times, we need come together as a country and hammer out solutions that benefit everyone. And elected leaders in Washington need to do the same as they work to support job growth and build a stronger future for all Americans. 

This is a guest blog by Terry Brunner. 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.

September 12, 2011 at 09:25 AM in Guest Blogger, Jobs, Obama Jobs Proposals, Rural Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Terry Brunner: The View From Space, Truth or Consequences, NM

This is a guest blog by Terry Brunner, State Director of USDA Rural Development-New Mexico.

One of the joys of my position as State Director for Rural Development at USDA is experiencing what rural communities throughout New Mexico have to offer and the challenges they face. This week I traveled to Truth or Consequences, NM for a couple of days. On my agenda was a trip to the Spaceport, meetings with local officials and a press announcement with Senator Udall.

I think it was 104 degrees in T or C when I arrived and got ready for my tour of the Spaceport. I shed my coat, rolled up my sleeves and traveled out to see what I heard is the future of commercial space flight.

A quick disclaimer: for a time my mother was a flight attendant, my father worked for Delta Airlines and on an Navy aircraft carrier as an air traffic controller and my brother served as a Navy Helicopter pilot who piloted dozens of precarious missions over Iraq’s no-fly zone. Despite my familial connections with air travel, I can safely say that I never caught any such bug that made me want to fly much more than a few feet off the ground. And, I might add, I never have been a Star Trek fan, a sci-fi enthusiast or taken an astronomy course. I was skeptical of the Spaceport at first, but I learned quickly that it doesn’t take a space enthusiast or a Trekie to get excited about the project.

Spaceport
Click on photos for larger versions

The Spaceport sits just about 30 miles west from I-25/Truth and Consequences and in the middle of what’s called the Journada del Muerto -- the famous Journey of Death for early New Mexico explorers.  It’s a haul out there but as you see the Spaceport rise in the distance it becomes clear that it is something special. The terminal for the Spaceport is almost complete and the building is simply an architectural wonder. Its form is easily incorporated into the land as it rises out of the desert floor at about a 20 degree angle and peaks in the form of a large, windowed viewing area. A rust-colored roof curls like a carp’s lip over the top of the building.

Terminal

Virgin Galactic designed the Spaceport to make the space travel experience everything you ever dreamed it could be. Those paying for high-priced tickets aren’t treated as passengers, but astronauts. They arrive in the terminal together in vehicles and enter the training center in the terminal for a three-day astronaut training program. Before astronauts board the flight, they will walk down a long, dark, dramatic corridor into the light of the tarmac to board the ship. The terminal will feature a restaurant and viewing area for family and friends wanting to see the astronauts take off. Soon a visitor’s center will be constructed at the entrance to the facility for those who want to learn more about the Spaceport.

We drove to the end of the runway made of 46-inch-thick concrete and looked northward at the infinite desert and blue skies before us. It wasn’t hard to imagine the thrill of hurtling down the runway towards space.

As someone familiar with economic development, my mind started churning and thinking about the possibilities associated with the Spaceport and whether the capacity exists locally to benefit from the project. Fortunately, area leaders are gearing up for the challenge. There are plans to locate space-related industries and suppliers near the spaceport and in T or C.  As well, the local school system is working on a space-related curriculum for students in hopes that they can meet job opportunities at the spaceport. In fact, a group of students recently prepared a payload for a practice spaceport launch -- a great opportunity to for kids interested in space.

On the way back to T or C, we drove through Ted Turner’s nearby Armendariz ranch and their headquarters in Engle, NM. Turner is working hard to reintroduce bison in the area and we caught them in a middle of a dust up. The bison were molting, they were lean and there were a lot of calves running around.

Bison

Also noticeable was increased development around Elephant Butte Lake. More and more permanent homes are locating on the east side of the lake; which is helping with the development of the area and providing a greater mix of housing stock for residents and vacationers. Housing for all of those working at the Spaceport and in related industries will be a big challenge for the community.

Before the Spaceport, T or C (formerly Hot Springs, NM) was best known for its natural mineral springs.  A bunch of hotels in town provide lodging and access to minerals baths. I tried out the recently remodeled, historic Sierra Grande Lodge in downtown T or C.

Sierra_grande

After a hot, dusty day in the desert, I felt (and probably looked) like one of Ted Turner’s bison. Folks at the Lodge's front desk were sympathetic -- they offered ice tea and showed me to one of their rooms.  But the highlight of staying at the Sierra Grande, of course, is that every room comes with a free bath in one of their numerous tubs (they also have nicely appointed spa services). After a great Italian meal at the Bella Luca in downtown T or C, I took up the offer for a soak and it was worth every minute.

Mineral_bath
A mineral bath tub at the Sierra Grande Lodge

The next day I woke up refreshed and rejuvenated. I headed out to meet with officials from Elephant Butte, the Sierra County Commission and the hospital. All had on their minds the challenges of a changing community and how we could work together to meet those needs. That afternoon, we celebrated the award with Senator Tom Udall of a $47,000 USDA grant to the Sierra County Economic Development Organization (SCEDO) for the development of a business center.  SCEDO will provide a temporary launching point for local start-up businesses or relocating businesses that wish to take advantage of the business opportunities related to the Spaceport. SCEDO will provide computers, wireless internet, phones, advice and other resources to make sure businesses have what they need to get started and do business in the area.

SCEDO
Presenting a plaque with Senator Tom Udall to John Mulcahy, Executive Director of SCEDO, and Commissioner Al Campbell, SCEDO President

There’s a lot of bad news about the economy out there these days. But in T or C, there’s some good news and opportunities ahead. Their challenge is to make the most of it for their workforce and the 1300 students in their school system that will eventually enter the workforce. These days, across-the-board cuts to government programs and services are in vogue. However, especially for our rural communities, government programs and services provide the infrastructure and conditions that make job growth possible. New Mexicans funded much of the Spaceport project and a trip to the project shows the potential rewards derived from that infrastructure investment. If you haven’t been to T or C in a while, stop by and check it out. Clearly, it’s a community on the move.

This is a guest blog by Terry Brunner. 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.

August 10, 2011 at 05:38 PM in Economy, Populism, Guest Blogger, Jobs, Rural Issues, Spaceport | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

7/6-8: NM Legislative Interim Economic and Rural Development Committee Meetings in Tucumcari, Santa Rosa

The Legislative Interim Economic and Rural Development Committee will meet July 6 and 7 in Tucumcari at Mesalands Community College, and on July 8 at the Blue Hole Dive Training and Santa Rosa Conference Center in Santa Rosa.

Senator Bernadette M. Sanchez (D–Bernalillo–26) is Chair of the committee and Representative Debbie A. Rodella (D–Rio Arriba, Sandoval, Taos–41) is Vice-Chair. The committee will hear from a number of industry and small business experts on energy, real estate and tax policy and laws during the course of the meeting. Thursday morning the committee will tour the North American Wind Research and Training Center at Mesalands Community College. On Friday, Dr. Dely Alcantara of the University of New Mexico and Dr. Jim Peach of New Mexico State University will give an analysis of census data which has revealed a population shift from rural to urban areas and the effects on the demand for labor throughout New Mexico.

“This committee is focused on attracting and cultivating businesses in our rural communities throughout New Mexico,” said Rep. Rodella. All interested persons are welcome and encouraged to attend. Meeting agendas are subject to change. For more information and the most current committee agendas and calendars, please go here. Interim committee audio webcasting is now available through the website.

July 5, 2011 at 07:48 AM in Economy, Populism, Energy, Events, NM Legislature 2011, Rural Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Officials Dedicate New $10-million Hospital in Santa Rosa, NM

GuadalupeHospital

Robert Cordova, Chairman of Guadalupe County Hospital Board of Directors, cuts ribbon to signal opening of new $10-million facility. Looking on to Mr. Cordova’s left is U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman. To Mr. Cordova’s right (holding microphone) is Ms. Christina Campos, Administrator of the Guadalupe County Hospital. (Click photo for larger image.)

Earlier today, USDA Rural Development State Director Terry Brunner was joined by U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman in Santa Rosa to participate in the dedication of the newest hospital in New Mexico.

During the dedication ceremony Brunner stated, “The opening of this ARRA-funded medical facility is a good example how the Obama administration is working to build much needed infrastructure in rural communities across the state.” He added, “Providing quality health care in rural communities is a major challenge. We want to make sure that those living in Guadalupe County or traveling along I-40 have access to the same level of care that they would see in a metropolitan area.”

The new Guadalupe County hospital replaces the existing 56-year-old, 10-bed acute care hospital with a new 10-bed 21,410 square foot hospital and a 10,000 square foot medical clinic.

The funding for the new hospital was made possible by a $9,400,000 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) loan through USDA Rural Development’s Community Facilities loan program. The program provides funds to build essential community facilities and provides fundamental equipment for these facilities in rural areas of population of 20,000 or less.

The new hospital, built on the southwest side of Santa Rosa, is equipped with the most modern up-to-date medical equipment will now be able to provide higher level of medical care to the 5,000 residents of Guadalupe County and the surrounding area..

Over the years traffic along the Interstate has increased, and so has the need for more and better medical services for those travelers on Interstate-40. It is estimated by the State Department of Transportation that more than 30-thousand vehicles travel through Guadalupe County along Interstate-40 each day. The hospital is one of two that provides emergency medical services along the 290 mile stretch of interstate highway between Albuquerque and Amarillo, Texas making it strategically placed along the highway.

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.

April 28, 2011 at 04:02 PM in Healthcare, Obama Administration, Rural Issues, Sen. Jeff Bingaman | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Terry Brunner Guest Blog: Today We Recognize Earth Day

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

Forty-one years ago, a group of dedicated citizens decided to take action to make their local communities cleaner and healthier, and from this spirit, Earth Day was born. Since then countless Americans have made a positive impact on our planet, and now President Obama is calling on all of us to pitch in. 

As a result, thousands of people throughout the country are volunteering in their communities today and throughout the month of April. To recognize Earth Day, I’ll be in Ruidoso, NM on behalf of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)-Rural Development. We’ll be touring a recently constructed $8.7 million wastewater treatment plant financed by the USDA with funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Their new wastewater plant will help prevent groundwater contamination that could occur without proper sewage treatment and protect one of our most basic needs -- clean drinking water.

Earth Day reminds us of the critical role we all play in protecting the Earth. Every day we face serious challenges to our nation’s natural resources: climate change, air and water pollution, loss of open space, and a lack of connection between our nation’s population and the great outdoors. 

We have a strong appreciation for the environment in New Mexico. We’re surrounded by natural beauty and we understand that it’s a large part of what makes us who we are. It’s simply our natural instinct to not only protect it but make sure that we are able to enjoy it for many years to come.

This idea isn’t lost on the citizens of Ruidoso and Lincoln County. They’re working on the long-term sustainability of their communities in and around the Lincoln National Forest. Not only have they completed work on a new wastewater facility, but today they will be holding a Lincoln County Renewable Energy Conference. It is a great opportunity to hear from renewable energy providers and experts in the field about how we can better use renewable energy to power our homes and businesses. 

Utilizing the power of resources like the sun and the wind in a place like New Mexico just makes common sense. It provides an economic benefit for those who want to save on energy costs and reduces our need to draw from finite resources.  

Earth Day provides a terrific opportunity to lead by example and show our children and grandchildren things they can do every day to protect the Earth. So I urge everyone to use today to reflect on what we can do in our daily lives to support the preservation and restoration of our important natural resources.

This is a guest blog by Terry Brunner. 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.

April 22, 2011 at 11:53 AM in Environment, Guest Blogger, Rural Issues, Water Issues | Permalink | Comments (3)

Monday, April 18, 2011

HANM: Another Legislative Session Without Answers to NM's Dental Access Crisis

This is a guest blog by Pamela K. Blackwell, JD, Project Director, Oral Health Access, Health Action New Mexico.

Lack of access to affordable dental care is a huge problem for thousands of New Mexicans. Although a bill to expand oral health care access did not pass the legislature this past session, many lawmakers were glad to see the issue raised.

Now that they’ve learned more about our state’s dental care crisis, I’m optimistic that they will be better prepared to address it next year. Specifically, I hope they will revisit the bill introduced this session by Rep. Dennis Roch (HB 495) that sought to reduce the severe dental care shortages that are common in rural, remote, and Native American communities where there aren’t any dentists.

These shortages are causing hardship and suffering for many families and children. Twenty-nine of our 33 counties don’t have enough dentists, including six counties that don’t have any.

As a result, far too many New Mexicans -- including children, elders and people with disabilities -- can’t get dental care. They live in pain, miss school or work, develop long-term serious health problems as a result of poor oral health and face life-threatening medical emergencies due to dental infections.

Rep. Roch’s bill proposed adding a new kind of dental practitioner to the dental care team: a dental therapist, who would be trained to work in underserved communities, providing a limited set of basic but commonly needed dental care services, like teeth cleanings, fillings and basic extractions, under the supervision of an off-site dentist.

Dental therapists are selected by their home community to practice in their community when their education is complete. In this way, the dental therapist model actually provides economic and job opportunities for New Mexico’s rural and tribal communities.

Because dental therapists are less expensive to train than dentists, they can provide care at a lower cost. This makes it possible for them to practice in poor, rural and isolated communities where the economics are such that a dentist can’t break even. With lower overhead costs, dental therapists are also in a better position to accept patients with Medicaid and other low-paying coverage.

A dental therapist could have helped a Clayton woman whose toothache turned into a dental emergency because the nearest dentist couldn’t fit her in for three weeks when she called for an appointment. Not only did the woman suffer unnecessarily, but she could have contracted a serious infection. Her trip to the ER cost exponentially more than a regular dental visit would have.

People shouldn’t have to wait weeks and months when they’re in pain and at risk; they shouldn’t have to take a whole day off work so that they can drive two to four hours and across state lines to see a dentist. Everyone should be able to get quality, affordable dental care where they live.

Governor Martinez recently signed a bill (HB 187) that slightly expands the scope of services that dental hygienists can provide and creates a community dental health coordinator. Unfortunately, this law will not make a difference in providing real access to our underserved communities. Dental therapists are trained and educated to provide approximately 27 more necessary, high-quality and billable services than are NM hygienists. Dental coordinators can only provide prevention awareness information and can transport patients to dentists. So where will these coordinators take patients?  Based on the dire shortage of dentists in NM patients will be given a bus ride to nowhere.

To meet New Mexico’s unmet dental needs we need to put a new frontline provider like dental therapists in communities that need them. Working as part of a dental care team led by a dentist, dental therapists can extend the reach of the entire team, providing care where it currently isn’t available.

Dental therapists are just catching on in the United States, but dozens of countries with advanced health care systems have been using dental therapists for more than 80 years to bring dental care to underserved communities. The experience, as reflected in all the research, has been excellent.

Health Action New Mexico is committed to making quality, affordable dental care accessible throughout New Mexico, and we will continue to work for a NM dental therapist model. We invite the dental care community -- dentists and hygienists, healthcare providers, educators, patient advocates, community leaders and others -- to work with us, learn more about the dental therapist model and listen to the voices of those in need.

Working together on a real solution to expand oral health care access, we can meet those needs and improve the oral health and well-being of thousands of New Mexicans.

This is a guest blog by Pamela K. Blackwell, JD, Project Director, Oral Health Access, Health Action New Mexico. 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.

April 18, 2011 at 12:04 PM in Guest Blogger, Healthcare, NM Legislature 2011, Rural Issues | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Tonight: DFA-DFNM Meetup to Feature Analysis of 2010 Census, Role of USDA Rural Development

This month's DFA-Democracy for New Mexico Meetup is set for tonight, April 5, at 7:00 PM at the Social Hall of the First Unitarian Church on the SW corner of Carlisle and Comanche. Click here to RSVP and/or become a member. All are welcome.

The group will be hearing from two knowledgeable folks about two important topics. Meetup member Sterling Ray Fluharty, who has made a careful study of the demographic changes captured in the 2010 census, will discuss their meaning for politics in New Mexico. Terry Brunner, the State Director for USDA Rural Development in New Mexico, will fill us in on what his important agency does to support communities in NM, and how its focus fits in with the demographic changes highlighted in the recent census.

We'll also be discussing what's going on in the pro-worker movement here and nationwide, and what we can do to keep the momentum going.

April 5, 2011 at 03:18 PM in DFA, DFNM - Albq, Local Politics, MeetUp, Rural Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Terry Brunner: Winning the Future in Rural New Mexico

TerryBrunner This is a guest blog by Terry Brunner, who has served as State Director for USDA Rural Development in New Mexico since September 2009, when he was appointed to the post by President Barack Obama.

Many of the rich resources that we are known for in New Mexico come from our rural areas. We are known for our natural beauty, our specialty crops like chile and pecans and our cultural heritage that is firmly grounded in our farm and ranching roots.

But new census numbers show us that our rural population is changing. During the past 10 years, the 13 New Mexico counties with declining population were rural. Shifting migration patterns resulted in New Mexicans moving from rural areas to our urban centers or other states.

While rural communities and areas are home to 1.26 million New Mexicans, more than a third of New Mexico’s 102 municipalities have fewer than 1000 residents. Each of these rural communities is vital to the prosperity, character and culture of the Land of Enchantment.

To keep rural New Mexico vibrant and prosperous, three priorities should be emphasized: infrastructure, education and innovation.

Infrastructure
Community and economic development is difficult in communities with a deteriorating or non-existent infrastructure. Water services, wastewater treatment, bridges, roads, sewers, electricity and telecommunications need to be in place for a community to prosper. There is an incredible, constant demand to maintain and build infrastructure in rural New Mexico. In the past, many of these projects have been funded through Congressional appropriations and State-funded Capital Outlay. However, dramatic decreases in those funding streams over the past two years have stymied the development and maintenance of critical rural infrastructure. 

The United Stated Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Development agency is committed to investing in rural New Mexico. Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act alone, USDA Rural Development invested $91 million in fiscal year 2010 for broadband infrastructure throughout the state.  In the past two fiscal years, we provided $150 million in financing for new hospitals, 48 rural water and wastewater projects, child care facilities, libraries and emergency equipment. Together, these projects help advance our rural communities.

Education
We must continue to invest in future generations by creating unique learning opportunities that will ensure young New Mexicans have the necessary skills to compete in the work place. USDA Rural Development agency funding for distance learning programs around the state of New Mexico ensures that those who live far from formal educational facilities may access coursework or training through remote sites or the internet. These tools can also be leveraged to provide the workforce education and training necessary to start a successful business, a second job or a new career.

Innovation
USDA Rural Development further encourages innovation by promoting the technologies and business support systems that will diversify our economy and complement our strong agricultural, small business, energy and natural resource economic drivers. We  fund state-of-the-art energy projects like the Sapphire energy algae-based biodiesel plant in Columbus, New Mexico. We invest in projects to increase energy efficiency in small businesses and finance technological improvements to farm practices.

In Southern New Mexico, USDA Rural Development invested in a program led by the Community Action Agency of Southern New Mexico. They conduct door-to-door outreach in small communities like Hatch, NM to assist small businesses in improving their marketing, accounting and basic businesses practices.

By building infrastructure, enhancing education and fostering innovative practices; we brighten the future for our rural communities and, in turn, our state as a whole. A concerted effort on this front sustains and enhances the unique rural qualities that contribute to winning the future for all of New Mexico.

This is a guest blog by Terry Brunner. 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.

March 26, 2011 at 11:38 AM in Education, Guest Blogger, Land Issues, Rural Issues, Telecommunications, Water Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

2/11: NM Senate to Hear Gas Outage Concerns

Majority Floor Leader, State Sen. Michael Sanchez (D-Belen), announced today that a Committee of the Whole will convene on the Senate floor Friday, February 11, 2011 at 12:30 PM to listen to testimony on the natural gas outage that left many New Mexicans in the cold. He said senators will be taking the testimony as part of Senate Memorial 30, introduced by Sen. Carlos Cisneros (D-Questa), requesting a task force to investigate how and why New Mexico Consumers lost natural gas and to make recommendations on how to prevent loss of service in the future.

The outage left more than 30,000 homes and businesses without heat for six days in more than one dozen communities across the state. Many residents have complained of long delays by New Mexico Gas Company in re-lighting their heaters and said the outage left them with frozen water lines in their homes and other expenses.

Representatives of the New Mexico Gas Company and the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission will be at the hearing and El Paso Natural Gas has been contacted to attend. Senators have invited members of the public to speak at the committee meeting as well. Citizens can sign up to speak on the day of the committee meeting at the Chief Clerk, Lenore Naranjo’s office in room 115 of the State Capitol.

February 10, 2011 at 02:05 PM in Energy, Events, NM Legislature 2011, Regulation, Rural Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)