N.M. Senators: Agriculture spending bill that supports New Mexico sent to president

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall today said they are pleased a key spending bill that contains funding for key New Mexico agricultural-related projects has cleared a final hurdle and is now on its way to the president to be signed into law.

The 2010 Agricultural Appropriations Bill contains $350,000 the senators secured for the Southern Great Plains Dairy Consortium. The funding is for New Mexico State University’s Agriculture Science Center in Clovis to continue its work to support of the state’s dairy industry. The consortium will enhance the dairy industry’s competitiveness and its impact on the economy, and will also focus on the environmental impact of dairy production, including converting biomass waste to energy.

“This bill invests in a variety of initiatives that benefit our state’s agricultural base and small communities – which are the foundation of New Mexico’s economy,” Bingaman said.

“This bill will help support economic growth and rural development in New Mexico,” said Udall. “The funding included will benefit our farmers, invest in rural housing and help provide nutritious food for hungry New Mexico children.”

The bill also contains funding for the following projects:

• $350 billion in aid for dairy farmers, who face the lowest price for milk in three decades. USDA will decide how to apportion $290 million in aid directly to farmers. The remaining $60 million will buy surplus cheese and other dairy products for donation to food banks.

• $200,000 to restore and maintain riparian areas along the Rio Grande, Pecos and Canadian Rivers where the state is working to treat and kill the noxious salt cedar. The funding would be used to restore native vegetation to riparian areas in order to stabilize soils; to maintain replanted areas; and for management to prevent invasive species from returning to treated areas.

• $25 million for Water and Wastewater Projects in Colonias along the U.S.-Mexico border: New Mexico is expected to get about $7.9 million of this funding.

$983,000 for the Joe Skeen Institute for Rangeland Management: The institute conducts research on agricultural, range management, animal husbandry, education and extension programs. The institute is a joint effort of NMSU, Texas A&M and Montana State.

• $800,000 for USDA to contract with the Albuquerque-based National Tribal Environmental Council to continue a Native American circuit rider program to provide technical assistance for rural water systems.

• $404,000 for NMSU and the State Department of Agriculture to continue work on an Internet-based system for early detection and reporting of outbreaks of infectious diseases in food animals. The system is known as the Rapid Syndrome Validation Program for Animals. This is the sixth year funds have been earmarked for this effort.

• $24 million to continue a Bingaman-created grant program that supports community development projects in Native American Communities. The funds are set aside for basic drinking water and wastewater systems, tribal colleges, and business promotion in Indian country.