Ag secretary makes rural connection

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ann M. Veneman, right, answers questions along with U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., during Wednesday’s press conference at ENMR. CNJ photo by Eric Kluth.

By Mike Linn: CNJ news editor

The U.S. secretary of agriculture came to Clovis on Wednesday behind an entourage of political, dairy and technological gurus to promote broadband and wireless services in rural America and the re-election of one of New Mexico’s congressmen.

Ann M. Veneman told Eastern New Mexico Rural Co-op, local business and media personnel before noon at ENMR’s offices in north Clovis that advanced technology expedites growth in the agriculture business.

“Would we see a brand new cheese plant here if we didn’t have good electricity, good telephones and good communications capabilities?” she said.

Veneman arrived at the Clovis Municipal Airport in the morning with U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., whom she is promoting for re-election, and headed for a tour of the Southwest Cheese plant site, stopping at a few dairies on the way, according to the secretary’s agenda provided to the media by ENMR.

The group arrived at ENMR offices in north Clovis before noon and told a group of about 50 people that the future of agriculture is contingent on rural communities embracing Internet, wireless services and broadband, a high-speed Internet connection.

Along with President Bush, Veneman said she would like to see all American residences — from housing projects in Chicago to rural homes in Curry County — equipped with broadband services by 2007.

Following the 20-minute stop at ENMR, Veneman and Pearce attended a fund-raising luncheon at Chaparral Country Club.

At $1,000 a plate, the proceeds will go toward Pearce’s re-election bid.

Pearce’s district includes all of southern New Mexico, but doesn’t include Clovis or Portales.