By Tony Parra
Roosevelt County residents rely on the agricultural economy and sometimes news from the United States Department of Agriculture means bad news for county farmers with farm land in the Conservation Reserve Program.
James Bostwick, chairman of the New Mexico Farm Service Agency committee, said this announcement will hit farmers in eastern New Mexico the hardest. According to a press release from U.S. Congressman Tom Udall (D-N.M.), there are 1,664 farmers and ranchers currently enrolled in the CRP. Bostwick said there would be a loss of between 145,000 to 150,000 acres enrolled in the CRP from Quay, Roosevelt and Curry counties.
According to Bostwick, there would be a reduction of CRP land amounting to 60,068 acres in Curry County, 45,433 acres in Roosevelt County and 38,189 in Quay County.
The Food Security Act of 1985 set up the CRP to reduce soil erosion and help with the health and population of wildlife.
Tom Clark, county commissioner and farmer, said CRP has been so beneficial to the wildlife in Roosevelt County that he’s seen an increase in prairie chicken, deer and antelope since land has been placed in the CRP.
Clark said the biggest help it has given to Roosevelt County farmers has been to alleviate the risk of farming.
“The main thing is that cuts in the CRP would mean farmers would not be able to spend that money in the economy,” Clark said. “It (CRP) eliminates the (farmer’s) risk and is a benefit to the environment.”
Clark said the $1.5 million loss of CRP revenue would lead to more millions lost in the economy because this would result in less dollars spent at Roosevelt County businesses.
David Sanders, county commissioner and retired farmer, said farmers have had to go through risks such as hail damage and droughts that have cost some people their farms.
“It’s (farming) real unpredictable,” Sanders said. “On an average you would have two good crops out of 10. It (CRP) has saved a lot of family farms. It’s sad to say that. A lot of people left (before the CRP started) and missed out.”
Qualifiying land brings in annual rental payments and cost-share assistance from the USDA. However, the new proposal would reduce the percent of land eligible for CRP from 35 percent to 20 percent, according to Ag Secretary Mike Johanns.
According to Boswtick, this would result in a $1.5 million loss to Quay, Roosevelt and Curry counties.
“I support this program to encourage conservation,” Udall said. “It would be devastating if the USDA reduces this program.”
Bostwick said CRP contracts for land are set to begin expiring in 2007, and more set to expire in the following years. Clark said he has some land which will expire in 2007 and more in 2009.