Enviro briefs – February 7

By Cody Hooks
Posted 2/7/19

Hemp at the Roundhouse, Young farmers, and Interior Dept. gets new secretary – in brief.

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Enviro briefs – February 7


Hemp at the Roundhouse

A bill that would allocate $100,000 for the study of hemp production and sales in New Mexico seems to have stalled in the New Mexico Legislature.

House Bill 63 would direct a one-time chunk of money to the New Mexico Department of Agriculture. That money would be used, primarily, to study the current status of hemp industries in the state, infrastructure needs, potential "downstream" industries that would sustain and diversity the hemp industry at large, according to an fiscal impact report.

The state's agriculture department expects most hemp production will be focused on CBD, or cannabidiol, a compound that's increasingly used as a medical treatment. CBD is not psychoactive like THC found in marijuana.

The bill passed the House Agriculture and Water Resources Committee Jan. 24 and is now waiting to be heard by the House Appropriations and Finance Committee. As of press time, the committee had not scheduled a hearing on the bill.

To date, 41 states have passed legislation OK'ing industrial hemp production, according to the report. The federal farm bill signed by the president in Dec. 2018 shortly before the government shutdown removed the narcotic designation from hemp, a cousin to cannabis.

Yikes, where are the young farmers?

As of a few years ago, the average age of farmers and ranchers in New Mexico was over 60. The number of farmers under 35? Just three percent.

Those statistics have prompted a pair of bills in the New Mexico Legislature that would direct more money to agricultural education and training.

HB 315 would set aside $250,000 for the New Mexico Department of Agriculture to implement an agricultural business internship and administer a new ag-related workforce development program.

An analysis of the bill cautioned that, because farming operations could be reimbursed for the cost of taking on an intern, the bill might violate the state's anti-donation provision spelled out in the constitution. The bill was scheduled to be heard Wednesday (Feb. 6) in the House Commerce and Economic Development Committee.

The other bill in the house related to agricultural education, HB 125, would put $350,000 to the agriculture department for experimental learning grants so schools could teach students about food and agriculture.

But the bill has one major drawback: the department noted it does not have the staff currently to administer a food education program. However, the bill passed the House Agriculture and Water Resources Committee with a "do pass" recommendation. Like HB 315, it needs to clear another committee.

Interior Dept. gets new secretary

Deputy Secretary of the Interior and a former oil lobbyist, David Bernhardt has been nominated by President Donald Trump as the next Interior Secretary.

Bernhardt visited Taos in October to dedicate, along with former New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, a Republican, a portion of the Río Grande Trail. At the time, he praised Trump and former Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke for conservation leadership. However, both Trump and Zinke have been under intense scrutiny by national conservation groups and Taos-area outdoor enthusiasts for their aggressive rollback of environmental and climate-related policies.


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