Sen. Bingaman visits Portales

By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., told a crowd of Roosevelt and Curry county agriculture producers Thursday in Portales he was pessimistic about passage of a new farm bill this fall in Washington.

He said the proposed farm bill is tied to world trade talks, which he said have collapsed.

“Chances are better than 50-50 we’ll end up extending the current bill,” Bingaman said. “There may be some tweaking, but I doubt we can come up with a whole new bill.”

Bingaman briefly addressed the local dairy industry and its importance to the state, and in particular, the east side of the state. He also touched on energy with comments about ethanol and biodiesel.

“Demand for ag producers for energy needs like ethanol are going to continue to grow,” Bingaman said.

Roosevelt County peanut producer Wayne Baker said farmers in this area like the current farm bill, which was extended last year. He said local producers are just getting used to the provisions of the bill but expressed concern about it ending in 2007.

“Is it possible to extend it out even further?” he asked.
Bingaman said that Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., had suggested extending parts of the current bill on which everyone can agree.

Dee Brown, a Roosevelt County peanut producer who also sits on the Peanut Board, said the consensus is that current programs should be extended with changes in the maturity of peanut loan payments being made to better accommodate the crop’s short shelf life.

Bingaman also fielded questions about the failure of the recent bill that tied together a minimum wage increase and estate tax reform.

The senator said he had not supported the failed bill.

“I think we could address the estate tax if we have something that doesn’t gut the budget,” Bingaman said. “The minimum wage was just added in as a sweetener to get people to vote for it. Well, it didn’t work.”
Hoyt Pattison of Portales asked for Bingaman’s support in opening up new sources of energy and research and development money for alternative energy sources.

Bingaman said he had supported tax credits aimed at developing wind power plants. With those credits ending in 2007, he said companies developing those operations were getting wary about starting new projects. The senator said he would propose extending those credits.
The senator was hosted at the luncheon by the Ag 50 Committee, an arm of the Clovis/Curry County Chamber of Commerce as well as agriculture producers in Roosevelt County.

It was part of a trip that included a stop at the Portales Fire Department in the morning where he heard a report on the city’s emergency preparedness.

In the afternoon, he toured Roosevelt General Hospital and visited with senior citizens about the Medicare prescription plan.

Bingaman plans to visit Clovis today, where he is expected to tour the wastewater treatment plant as well as meet with Portales Mayor Orlando Ortega and Clovis Mayor David Lansford.