Inside the Capitol

Monday, August 22, 2011

82611Texas gets different rules

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- Texas has done it to us again. The state has enjoyed bullying us ever since it came into existence. This time it involves playing by different rules for the collection on drought insurance.
Last year, as the effects of drought became very obvious, the U.S. Department of Agriculture began touting a new drought insurance policy. Ranchers in New Mexico and Texas jumped at the opportunity.
Sure enough, both states are experiencing the worst droughts in recorded history. Texas ranchers have received $65 million in payments. New Mexico ranchers have received $2,000 for the $1.5 million they paid in premiums.
The Agriculture Department says New Mexico's problem is that pinons, junipers, cactus and snake weed that still are living count against us even though cows don't eat them.
So in Texas, the lack of rainfall qualifies ranchers for tens of millions in drought payments, while New Mexico ranchers qualify for a pittance.
The difference seems to be that New Mexico ranchers insured themselves against a decline in vegetation greenness. It wasn't drought insurance. Except New Mexico ranchers insist it was called drought insurance when they bought it.
On the surface, this may appear to be ineptness on the part of the U.S. Agriculture Department. And some of that likely is involved. But it also has a lot to do with Texas having a congressional delegation many times the size of New Mexico's delegation.
With 32 House members and two senators, Texas can pound the Agriculture Department for a favorable interpretation of the rules. With three House members and two senators, New Mexico is in a considerably weaker position.
We've also talked about New Mexico's seniority problem after the retirement of Sen. Pete Domenici and the resignation of all three House members in order to vie for his seat.
Sen. Jeff Bingaman and his 29 years of experience is all we have left. The combined experience of the other four members of our delegation hardly totals 10 years. That leaves Bingaman to fight the fight.
Bingaman is chairman of the Senate Energy Committee but in this situation, it doesn't carry the clout of former Rep. Joe Skeen who as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee's subcommittee on Agriculture, could promise to take a close look at the Agriculture Department's budget.
Anyway we are accustomed to getting knocked around by Texas. In the matter of Rio Grande water, New Mexico's allotment always has been unfairly low.
New Mexico farmers complain about having to conserve every drop of water they can, while Texas farmers flood their crops to the point water runs over the roads.
This may be a long, sad story. Scientists tell us we could be in for a 30 to 40 year mega-drought and Texas isn't going to do anything to help its poor New Mexico neighbor despite Texas Gov. Rick Perry's "miracle economy" and his close connection with the Almighty.
Texas began its efforts to dominate New Mexico back in 1841, when it invaded us from the east. Fortunately they never had seen mountains so they crumbled after hitting Anton Chico. They were marched barefoot to Mexico City.
The next invasion was from the south in 1862. The Texans did well as long as they stuck to the Rio Grande. But when they veered east at Santa Fe to take the supply depot at Fort Union, they ran into mountains again.
After we destroyed their supplies and killed their mules, we lent them shovels to bury their dead and sent them packing back down the Rio Grande.
That experience convinced Texans they weren't fighters so they resorted to being politicians. When New Mexico finally became a state, Texas required that we accept an incorrect boundary survey, which gave Texas an extra half-million acres.
A few years ago, then-Land Commissioner Patrick Lyons challenged the Texas land commissioner to a quick draw contest with the stakes supposedly being that disputed 500,000 acres. Lyons says the Texan cheated.
FRI, 8-26-11

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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