Feedlot garners support, raises questions

by Chelle Delaney: Quay County Sun

Plans for a feedlot in Tucumcari gained more positive comments than negative at a workshop of city commissioners on Thursday.
A 3,000-head feedyard is being proposed by Tony Gable of Conchas Dam and Mark Whetten of Newkirk. The first phase of the project is to also include a small trucking operation, said Gable at the workshop.

The plan calls for Gable and Whetten to use a 200-acre site that the city owns near its new landfill being developed northeast of the city along Highway 54. They are also asking for a special use water rate. The feedlot’s 3,000 head of cattle are expected to use 36,000 per day. However, the planned feedlot did prompt many questions and concerns form the commissioners.

Among them were the need to:
• study how the runoff manure would affect water sources
• annexation of the land so that the city could take advantage of the tax base
• examine the current lease that the city has with New Mexico State University for the land and determine the best way to sell or transfer title to the land for the project
• have public hearings so that the public would have a say about the project
• research water rate charges
Looking at the big picture, commissioner Jim Lafferty said that even though the project would employ 12 to 20 workers who would possibly be a match for available housing in the city. “They are not high-paying jobs, but they’re the right kind of jobs that might fill homes in our community that are vacant,” Lafferty said.
“I would have to call myself a supporter,” he said. “We’re about agriculture … and it really enhances what we are doing.”
Combined with the ethanol plant, and the plan to use by-products for feed from the plant at the feedyard, the proposal ties in with the area and planned developments, Lafferty said.
Further investigation is needed, but any decision needs based on facts and not because it’s emotionally driven, Lafferty said.
Mayor Mary Mayfield said she supported the project and wanted to make sure that the planned trucking operation would stay in Tucumcari and not be moved later.
Commissioner Jim Witcher also said he supported the project. He also said that he thought an agreement between the city and Gable and Whetten could be worked out.
Commissioner Antonio Apodaca said the property should be annexed. He also asked several times if Gable would be responsible for any legal fees that might develop because of the project.
“The city’s been sued before because of our landfill, and it cost the city a lot of money,” he said.
Commissioner Christopher Maestas said he opposed the feedyard because of problems that could occur with the surrounding environment in years to come.
“It bothers me that investors in Ute Lake Ranch have spent millions,” Maestas said, and that the feedyard could affect their project because of the odor.
“It will contaminate Ute Lake later,” Maestas said. “It’s not that far from Mine Canyon (where the Ute Lake Ranch is being developed).”
Maestas said the project should have more investigation regarding water contamination.
Maestas said he had lived in areas where there are feedlots and “I think we will have the same smell.”
Gable said what “we’re planning is real small. It’s not a 35,000 to 26,000 head operation.”
Gable invited Maestas and Apodaca to visit a small feedlot in the near future so that they could see first hand what a small feedlot operation is like.
The commissioners asked city manager John Sutherland, among other things, to research lease agreements and to talk to the city’s attorney about the best way to transfer the land to Gable and Whetten.