Dear Editor:

I am incredibly disappointed in the Senators of the Conservation Committee who voted to table the Farmer Protection Act, Senate Bill 303, on Sunday, February 14. This Act has been four years in the making with alliances between the Tribes, the Aceaquias, and even environmentalist groups agreeing on the importance of this issue. The four page Act does three simple and important things: 1) creates a procedure for Biotech agents to enter private property, 2) limits the liability that farmers and ranchers would suffer if genetically engineered crops or pollen accidentally comes on our land, and 3) states that disputes between Biotech and NM farmers will be settled in a NM court, not in some distant state. It doesn’t take away the rights for any farmers, it protects ALL farmers the same. We farmers and ranchers need to be concerned about this issue because there is genetically engineered alfalfa and corn out there, and it can contaminate the normal crops by the wind, bees, or other animals. As a farmer of native seeds, I don’t want to see myself or any farmer sued for supposed “patent infringement” when it is impossible to stop cross-pollination and other forces of nature.

I am especially disappointed in Senator Phil Griego, who I thought was a champion of acequia farmers and ranchers. He obviously doesn’t understand the issue or listens more to lobbyists with big money than dozens of farmers and ranchers who showed up to the Committee Meeting, not to mention the hundreds of signatures that have been gathered. I was on a water panel with Senator Griego in May 2009 when he mentioned Farmer Protection. It was on the agenda in the Water and Natural Resources Interim Committee in December 2009, but by the time of the Committee hearing, he conveniently “forgot” about this issue. I would like to thank Senator Richard Martinez of Rio Arriba County for defending the rights of farmers loud and clear in Committee. Senator Fischmann from Dona Ana was also a clear supporter. These senators need to be commended for their understanding of the issue, for listening to their constituents, and for standing up to the lobbyists to do the right thing: protect farmers’ rights.

Sincerely,

Miguel Santistevan
Mayordomo, Acequia Sur de Rio Don Fernando de Taos
Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Biology, University of NM
M.S. Agriculture Ecology, The University of CA, Davis