Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

Dairy rules hearings to be held in Roswell, court affirms

 

December 16, 2014



QCS Managing Editor

The New Mexico Supreme Court Monday upheld a decision that will keep upcoming dairy rule hearings in Roswell, NM, the New Mexico Environment Department announced.

The Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club had sought to move these hearings before the New Mexico Water Qualify Control Commission to Santa Fe, saying that such technical hearings should be set in Santa Fe to comply with state statutes.

After the technical hearings, the Sierra Club’s Don Lorimier said, there should be public hearings in Roswell and other dairy areas. Lorimier is the Sierra Club’s lobbyist for New Mexico.

Beverly Idsinga, executive director of the Dairy Producers of New Mexico, said the producers’ organization is “very pleased” with the supreme court’s decision.

Most of the state’s dairy producers, 75 percent, she said, are located in New Mexico’s southeast.

“Dairy farming is a 24/7 business,” she said. “Dairy farmers can’t afford to spend several days away from their operations to attend hearings in Santa Fe.”

The dairy industry directly employs more than 4,200 New Mexicans, with most dairies located in southeast New Mexico, an environment department news release said. In addition, the environment department said, “the dairy industry is the largest producer of agricultural products in the state.”

Environment department spokesperson Ryan Flynn said, “The New Mexico Environment Department is pleased with today’s Supreme Court ruling that will keep the upcoming dairy rule hearing in Roswell, which is in the region where the overwhelming majority of New Mexico’s dairies are located.”

The Sierra Club noted, however, that the supreme court also ruled that New Mexico Attorney General Gary King may participate in the hearings.

The environment department had attempted to bar King from participating in the hearings, Lorimier said.

Lorimier also noted that the supreme court said in its decision that further court action could be taken on the hearings’ location, but only after the hearings are complete and decisions are made.

The Sierra Club, through the Environmental Law Center, filed a lawsuit last fall arguing that the hearings should be held in Santa Fe.

After losing the case in the First Judicial District Court on Nov 25, the Sierra Club appealed the decision to the state supreme court.

Lorimier said he is still confident that a more stringent set of requirements for the dairy industry to protect underground water resources from contamination by dairy operations will be enacted after all hearings are completed.

Idsinga has said the additional requirements, including more monitoring wells and better regulation of using dairy waste as fertilizer, would be prohibitively costly for the industry.

 

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