Pearce Opposes Ruling to Lock Up Grazing Lands


Date: July 14, 2008
Location: Washington, DC

Pearce Opposes Ruling to Lock Up Grazing Lands

Hundreds of New Mexico farmers may be out thousands of dollars each after a federal judge ruled that they would not be allowed to let cattle graze on their own land.

The ruling affects farmers who were participating in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Critical Feed Use program, which allows applicants to graze cattle on land set aside for the federal government's crop rotation program. USDA officials said because of drought conditions, grazing land for cattle is in high demand and so allowed farmers to make use of their crop rotation fields.

"When they opened up the program it was a Godsend," said Curry County farmer James Bostwick. "We've been in a decade long drought and our grass is not as it should be. A lot of people are invested in this program."

Starting on July 2nd, farmers began having cattle graze their lands, some spending up to $100,000 each to put in fences, buy cattle and have them transported to their farmlands. However on July 7th the National Wildlife Federation filed a temporary restraining order in U.S. District Court in Seattle, Washington saying that there could be "immediate and irreparable injury" done if the TRO is not granted.

As a result, U.S. District Judge John Coughenour granted the motion, with the TRO in effect July 8th.

"I'm very upset. You've got farmers who are in 100 percent compliance with a U.S.D.A. program and now they're being told by a judge in Seattle that they can't graze on their own land," said Clovis farmer Eddie Standfield. "This is not federal land, this is privately owned land in a federal program."

Farmers also do not understand what the National Wildlife Federation aims to protect by their motion. They say if cattle are not allowed to graze the lands will still need to be maintained by using shredders.

"There are no baby chicks out there, but even if there were they're a lot safer with the cattle then the shredders," Bothwick said.

Out of desperation, farmers contacted U.S. Congressman Steve Pearce to intervene. Pearce said that besides wasting the farmer's money, the government is forcing them to spend valuable fuel mowing areas instead of allowing the grazing.

"This is another case of out-of-state environmentalists trying to damage the New Mexico economy, New Mexico jobs and our rural culture," Pearce said. "I'm committed to doing the right things for New Mexicans and to keep the government's first promise to the farmers that they can and should be able to graze their lands.

"This temporary restraining order needs to be just that … temporary."