Area farmers riled by grazing injunction

CNJ staff

Washington — Eastern New Mexico farmers may be out thousands of dollars after a federal judge issued a temporary injunction to halt cattle grazing on federally protected land on their property, according to a press release from Rep. Steve Pearce, R–N.M.

U.S. District Judge John Coughenour granted a 10-day temporary restraining order last week in Seattle against a critical feed use modification on land enrolled in the Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Reserve Program, which pays farmers to idle environmentally sensitive land for conservation.

Authorized in May, the critical feed use modification allows ranchers to use CRP fields for grazing and haying for a four-month period starting in July, after the primary nesting season ended for grass-nesting birds. More than 24 million acres of land were made eligible for critical feed use to provide feed and forage to help alleviate the escalating price of feed for livestock producers.

“I’m very upset,” said Clovis farmer Eddie Standfield in the release. “You’ve got farmers who are in 100 percent compliance with a USDA program and now they’re being told by a judge in Seattle that they can’t graze on their own land. This is not federal land, this is privately owned land in a federal program.”

Eastern New Mexico farmers have spent up to $100,000 to put in fences, buy cattle and have them transported to their farmlands, according to Pearce’s press release.

“When they opened up the program it was a Godsend,” Curry County farmer James Bostwick said in the release. “We’ve been in a decade long drought and our grass is not as it should be. A lot of people are invested in this program.”

The National Wildlife Federation filed a temporary restraining order in U.S. District Court saying that there could be “immediate and irreparable injury” done if the TRO is not granted. A hearing on the case is scheduled for Thursday.

“This is another case of out-of-state environmentalists trying to damage the New Mexico economy, New Mexico jobs and our rural culture,” Pearce said. “I’m committed to doing the right things for New Mexicans and to keep the government’s first promise to the farmers that they can and should be able to graze their lands.”