Jill McLaughlin Photo
State Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Dist. 32, seeds a field Monday. Local farmers are not reporting many negative effects from the second week of the federal shutdown.

Fed shutdown fails to upset local agriculture

October 8, 2013 • Local News

Jill McLaughlin Photo
State Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Dist. 32, seeds a field Monday. Local farmers are not reporting many negative effects from the second week of the federal shutdown.

Jill McLaughlin
Record Staff Writer

While farmers and livestock producers nationally struggle to get access to vital federal reports before planting winter crops, local farmers and ranchers are reporting few problems in the second week of the government shutdown.

Roswell-area farmers and ranchers are somewhat protected from relying on a USDA information blackout.

“The cattle business is rolling,” said Smiley Whooton, Chaves County commissioner and co-owner of Roswell Livestock Auction. “The packing ho[auth] uses are in business. All hands are on deck.”

The permits needed by ranchers are only required annually by the Bureau of Land Management, Whooton said.

“I was very pleased with how the auction went,” Whooton said. “We had lots of participation with the sale today. I haven’t heard of any ranchers having BLM problems with their permits. No one knows what the future holds there.”

Farmers and livestock producers in other states use reports issued by the National Agriculture Statistics Services to make decisions about how to price crops, which commodities to grow and when to sell them, and to track cattle auction prices.

The federal government stopped the NASS, cut off all access to the USDA website and stopped issuing new reports about demand and supply, exports and prices immediately following the shutdown.

State Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Dist. 32, who also farms in Chaves County, said while the agriculture industry may be affected nationally, most of the feed grown in this valley is feed that is sold to local dairy operations.

“In the Roswell area, the corn silage is chopped and fed to cows nearby,” Pirtle said. “The price is more based upon how much is available and how many cows are currently in the valley.”

The New Mexico Dept. of Agriculture is providing state farmers and ranchers with market news directly through a phone line, at 575-763-3030 and 1-866-501-9845.

“New Mexico’s market news is gathered not by USDA but by NMDA’s Market News Office in Clovis, on behalf of USDA,” said state NMDA spokeswoman Katie Goetz. Even during the shutdown, though, the USDA is still providing several essential agricultural functions, including federal inspection of meat and eggs, Goetz said.

But, USDA activities that are on hold include: farm loans, disaster assistance, technical and financial assistance related to conservation programs. One program not funded during the shutdown is the Conservation Reserve Program, in which the government pays farmers to keep highly erodible land out of production.

Otherwise, agriculture hasn’t been interrupted in the past several days, Goetz said.

“Farmers and ranchers are busy doing what they’re always busy doing, farming and ranching,” Goetz said.

Farmers are harvesting peanuts, potatoes and chile. Soon, they will harvest cotton and pecans. Some are in the middle of planting winter wheat and overwinter onions.

“In the longer term, the shutdown creates some uncertainty for the state’s agricultural community,” Goetz said.

The long-term effects of a budget shutdown might have consequences, Pirtle said. Hunting, fishing, tree cutting on federal lands and other permitting could be halted if the federal closures remain in place for an extended period.

“The government is involved in so many things, it’s hard to tell what is or isn’t going to be affected,” Pirtle said. “We all enjoy access to national forests.”

In Artesia, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center sent its 1,000 students home and cut its staff to minimal levels late last week.

FLETC serves as an interagency law enforcement training organization for 91 federal agencies and provides services to state, local, tribal and international law enforcement agencies, according to its web site.

Artesia Mayor Phillip Burch said the impact of losing the 1,000 law enforcement students was not as significant as the damage done to those permanent staff who live in Artesia, Roswell or Carlsbad.

“Certainly, the individuals that do the training, the staff workers that are laid off because of this, there’s definitely an impact to them not being able to go to their jobs and get paid every day,” Burch said.

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