Ristras and packaged dried red chile at Grajeda’s Farm in Hatch, N.M., in December 2021. (Photo by Santana Ochoa for Source NM)
As the federal Farm Bill continues to stagnate in Congress, U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández hosted a roundtable last week with New Mexico farmers and ranchers to hear their concerns.
Leger Fernández said she’s hopeful that bipartisan efforts will help push the Farm Bill through because of the House’s shared interests in it, such as regenerative agriculture.
“Agriculture is going to be part of the solution to the climate crisis because people constantly point out, ranchers and farmers are the original conservationists,” she said. “They want to make sure that their soil is healthy, because then they can actually make a profit.”
One disagreement that’s holding up the Farm Bill is the Republican push to reduce nutrition programs like SNAP. But Leger Fernández said she continues to talk with her GOP colleagues about why preserving these programs is important for the health of children and elderly veterans.
And this week 61 Republican House members sent a letter to new House Speaker Mike Johnson urging him to pass the bill.
Tami Cavitt, local farmer and owner of CLC Pecans, was at the New Mexico roundtable. She supports Leger Fernández’s efforts and the Farm Bill but would also like to see it include incentives for young farmers.
“I have observed a lot of existing farms that are being sold, because they don’t have anyone to pass the farm along to. And a lot of the young farmers don’t have the funds to go in and buy equipment, buy seeds, buy whatever spray they need,” she said.
Leger Fernández said she’s interested in working to add that to the legislation.
Cavitt also expressed the need to continue this generation of agriculturalists because it’s important to the state’s food source and quality.
“I sell at the Santa Fe farmers market, and the reason that I choose that market is because everyone there is so conscientious about their growth practices,” she said. “And people shop at that farmers market, because they know that they’re buying directly from a farmer who has really paid attention to the way that they’ve produced their crops.”
Leger Fernández said the delay in the Farm Bill isn’t immediately impacting New Mexicans, but that could change if the impasse continues to drag on.
At the meeting, Leger Fernández also highlighted other legislation that aims to support agricultural workers, like the Women in Agriculture Act, which helps women enter the agricultural economy and provides childcare. She also discussed the Support Water-Efficient Strategies and Technologiesor WEST Act, which is a bill that makes USDA programs like cost sharing for water conservation initiatives and soil testing more accessible for farmers and ranchers in arid climates.
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