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Legislators, listen to agricultural, rural experts

January 29, 2019

Only a handful of legislators understand the challenges and needs of New Mexico agriculture producers, but we are hopeful for additional support from new members. For instance, there’s the bill to ban coyote-calling contests, which, we have already been told, will probably pass.

The coyote population has grown too large in many rural areas of New Mexico, causing coyotes’ main food sources, jack rabbits and cottontail rabbits, to decrease. This causes coyotes to become more aggressive, killing livestock and moving into towns to prey on domestic pets.

We are at a point in some rural areas of New Mexico that we need help controlling the population — either with calling contests or with state or federal government assistance with eradication and an indemnity fund for loss of livestock. Coyotes do not self-manage their population. They run in packs of three to 10 members. The number of packs continues to increase as the pups get old enough.

Coyote populations in Santa Fe and Albuquerque are growing at a fast rate, and I expect officials there will have to address the issue of too many coyotes within the next five years. Coyotes have extremely good survival skills, so I am curious how those municipal governments will handle the problem. Probably like Santa Fe dealt with its gopher problem, which was to trap them.

Would it not be better to control the balance between coyotes and rabbits out in the country rather than endangering small children and pets because the creatures are hungry?

Our legislators, the New Mexico Economic Development Department and the Tourism Department spend a lot of time and funding seeking opportunities for New Mexico.

It has been reported that there are more than 30 organizations that hold coyote-calling contests around the state. The contests are usually two to four days long, requiring hotel stays, eating in restaurants, buying gasoline, etc. There is an entry fee per team that is generally given to a local youth or nonprofit organization, or it is used to purchase something a local school needs such as equipment or uniforms. Prizes are awarded, generally donated by the local businesses because they know the participants will be supporting the local businesses while in the area. Some of the contests may have 50 to 100 participants per contest. That is a great economic development success in our small communities.

Think about how much of New Mexico is being operated by agriculture producers on that land for several generations. They know how to manage that land and the environment around them, because it has been and will continue to be their livelihood. However, those of us in agriculture don’t have enough representation at the Roundhouse to help us protect the industry, even though it continually ranks as one of the largest industries for New Mexico. Legislators are ignoring local governments that have supported coyote-calling contests by resolution and are not supporting the agriculture producers.

It has been mentioned that coyote-calling contests are giving New Mexico an unfavorable reputation, but it’s the citizens in big cities being killed on our streets that really gives our state a bad reputation. Ag producers are asking legislators to table the bill that bans coyote-calling contests and shift their focus and limited time on the bills that will curb the crime in our state. That’s the Legislature’s most important responsibility — ensuring the safety of our citizens.

Eva Woods has a family farm and ranches in Eastern New Mexico.

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