By Argen Duncan, Freedom New Mexico
“I don’t think farmers are a bunch of stupid people in bib overalls,” said New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau’s new second vice president. “I believe they are the backbone of our nation.”
Grady-area farmer and rancher Pat Woods received his appointment for the two-year term in November. He is using his unpaid position to provide information to other agriculture producers and to advocate policies that benefit them.
Working from his home, he answers numerous phone calls and e-mails, as well as attending meetings. Woods also plans to work with other agriculture organizations.
Woods expects to move up to state Farm Bureau president in four years.
Working for a cause:
The fourth-generation Curry County agriculture producer said he accepted the office because he believed someone needed to speak for his industry and he had the ability.
“I think our way of life is being challenged, and I believe there are some good, honest people in our industry that are being portrayed as evil,” he said.
On a daily basis, Woods deals with a wide range of agriculture-related issues.
At the capitol:
Woods said lawmakers need to see individuals who work in agriculture to counteract any negative images or lack of knowledge.
“As far removed (from agriculture) as many of our politicians are, it’s important to let them know who the producers of the food and fiber are and see a face,” he said.
Woods said sunburned faces and calloused hands establish credibility in a second.
Currently, Woods is concerned about whether agriculture will continue to be exempt from workers’ compensation laws. If the push to end the exemption succeeds, he said, the move would increase his labor costs by 17 percent.
“And I truly don’t believe it’s a worthwhile deal for the people working for me,” Woods said. “I believe they would rather have the money on the check than the bureaucracy that goes with workers’ comp.”
Also, Woods said hired agriculture workers are traditionally treated more like family, possibly receiving housing and some food with the job, than employees in other industries.
“Farm Bureau has been fighting water issues for years and years,” Woods said.
As New Mexico cities grow, he said, they can take water rights through eminent domain, but they can only use the part of that water that crops would have absorbed.
According to hydrological theory, Woods said, when a farmer irrigates, plants take up some of the water in “consumptive use,” and the rest trickles down to replenish the aquifer. Many people believe irrigation is a waste of water because they don’t understand the theory of consumptive use, he said.
Other issues Woods deals with include support of private property rights and testing of food from foreign countries and keeping children of farmers and ranchers in the business.