Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

Sen. Woods expects easier time for conservative bills


December 2, 2014

Sen. Pat Woods

link Sen. Pat Woods

State Sen. Pat Woods has spent most of his life working his family’s 100-plus year old dryland farm in Broadview, the same land his great great grandfather homesteaded in 1908.

Woods has served as the District 7 senator for the past two years. The district includes Curry, Quay and Union counties.

With the Jan. 20 opening session of the New Mexico Legislature looming, Woods agreed to answer several questions about his experiences and his plans for the future.

Sen. Pat Woods (R-Broadview)

Sen. Pat Woods (R-Broadview)

Now that the Republicans have a majority in the House, will it be easier or harder to push legislation through? What ideas that have failed in the past might get through this time?

Conservative legislation should be easier to pass both houses.

Ideas that have failed in the past and might get through this time: Restricting drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants, requiring voter ID, and right-to-work. There could be legislation to stop union dues from being automatically deducted from pay checks.

What bills do you plan to carry through the 60-day session in 2015?

(1) I am working with the New Mexico Livestock Board to change statute to include sheep in the definition of livestock.

(2) I am working on legislation for the citizens review board CASA and the state advisory board to better coordinate their efforts in child custody matters in our court system.

(3) Legislation to fund a regional hydrological study in Harding, Union, Colfax, and Mora Counties so that we will have a clearer understanding of the Canadian River watershed.

(4) I am going to ask for an opinion from the Attorney General on how New Mexico can uphold its state rights to manage its own species.

Have you seen any repercussions from your victory over Angie Spears, the governor’s chosen candidate, in 2012? Do you feel like east-side Republicans are still divided because of that issue?

No to both questions.

What are the three biggest issues facing eastern New Mexico agriculture today? And what can the Legislature do to help?

(1) The drought is the most serious negative impact on agriculture.

(2) The continual listing of species under the endangered species act will cause higher production costs and reduce profits due to its restrictions on land use activities.

New Mexico land south of Interstate-40 will be included in the wolf recovery area.

The wolf will not have the elk and other wild game to survive on as they do in our forests when they inhabit our open grass and farmlands on the eastern side. They will have to look for other food sources such as cattle and horses or domestic pets.

The lesser prairie chicken was listed as threatened in the spring but we have not yet seen the regulations that will be affecting our local agriculture industry. I have heard that a minimum grass height may have to be maintained, which would be impossible in our current drought situation, but regulations of this type will further reduce cattle carrying capacity and these hidden costs will affect prices for consumers.

(3) Another problem is huge price swings of our commodities. Fuel costs fluctuate drastically which affects our cost of production. Grain prices have declined 40 percent to 50 percent over the past two years but cattle prices and milk prices are at all time highs and these were reversed in previous years. You do not have a certainty of prosperity in the agriculture industry.

The legislature can’t help with the drought we are experiencing nor commodity fluctuations. Our state legislature can and should challenge the federal government to acknowledge our state right to manage our own species and uphold our constitution in regards to private property rights.

What do you think about the concept of paying farmers for their water? What part of that idea do you think works, and what should we be concerned about?

I view water rights as a private property right which can be sold like any other private property; such as land, cattle, horses, tractors, etc.

When our ancestors created and voted on the constitution we agreed on the doctrine “first in use has the priority right to use the water.”

In Eastern New Mexico, the privately owned land was initially deeded through the Homestead Act or land grants recognized through treaties. This was in the time of mere subsistence farming and lands with access to surface water was much more valuable.

Systems of hand-dug community ditches were built to take water out of streams and rivers to grow crops, which established ownership of the water. In later years, when technology allowed for water well development, it was found that certain areas had a large reservoir of underground water that is referred to as the Ogallala Aquifer.

Those land owners installed irrigation systems to use the water to grow crops.

I wanted to provide this little bit of background to make my argument that citizens who have water rights have the legal right to transfer their water to another user, because they put the water to beneficial use.

In the Arch Hurley Irrigation District, during times of low water supplies, there is a mechanism to concentrate water on smaller pieces of land; that is, if you are only allocated three or four inches of water per acre, and it takes 12 inches to grow a crop, there is a solution to that situation.

Our concern is an increasing population if our water supply continues to decline under our present drought conditions. Our state constitution defines how our water supply should be allocated.

The State of New Mexico and other governmental entities continue to study water use and this information will eventually be developed into a statewide water use plan.

— Compiled by CMI staff


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