Join acequias for a day of learning and dialogue about a future shaped by climate change. The day will include an overview of the impacts of climate change on New Mexico’s watersheds and rivers from Dr. David Gutzler, UNM professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences, followed by interactive discussions about repartimiento traditions (old and new), water harvesting, infrastructure improvements, building healthy soils, and other adaptations.
DONATIONS ACCEPTED AT THE DOOR
Sponsored by the New Mexico Acequia Association, Embudo Valley Regional Acequia Association, Taos Valley Acequia Association, Rio Chama Acequia Association, and La Asociación de las Acequias del Valle de Mora.
The most significant piece of legislation for acequias passed in the 2019 session was the passage of SB 438 creating the Acequia and Community Ditch Infrastructure Fund. The sponsors of the bill (and the House companion bill HB 517) were Senator Carlos Cisneros, Senator Pete Campos, Senator Richard Martinez, Representative Andrea Romero, and Representative Bobby Gonzales. Strong supporters included Representatives Susan Herrera and Joseph Sanchez who also helped move the bill through the legislative process.
The Acequia and Community Ditch Infrastructure Fund will be administered by the Interstate Stream Commission. The funding would be appropriated from the Irrigation Works Construction Fund and would be used for planning, design, and construction of acequia infrastructure projects.
The new fund builds on the existing acequia program at the ISC. The bill seeks to institutionalize recurring annual funding for the acequia projects through the Interstate Stream Commission. For more than 25 years, HB 2 has included a year-to-year appropriation for the ISC acequia program from the Irrigation Works Construction Fund, which according to Section 72-14-23, NMSA 1978 is intended for irrigation infrastructure. The annual appropriation has usually been $1.9 million but there have been some years when the NMAA has had to protect that appropriation from budget cuts. The rationale for the creation of the new fund is to ensure that the funding for the ISC acequia program is stable and recurring at a predictable amount.
The existing ISC acequia program has a long track record of successful completion of projects. Since the late 1980s, the ISC has administered acequia projects by ensuring that such projects have an engineering design, where needed, or design specifications prior to approving a project to proceed with construction. Currently, the program is staffed by two engineers who have the qualifications to review engineering designs and to assist acequias in managing their projects. The ISC also assists with inspections of construction during and after construction.
The ISC acequia program is a good complement to federal funding that is available as a cost share. It is also a good alternative or complement to Capital Outlay funding because it provides a more reliable stream of funding that is available for acequia projects.
Currently, the ISC program is part of several partnerships to leverage state and federal funding as well as technical assistance resources. The ISC partners with the NM Association of Conservation Districts and the New Mexico Acequia Association to conduct outreach to acequias and to assist acequias with infrastructure planning, applying for funding, and completing projects.
Having a statutory fund that provides reliable, recurring revenue to the acequia program at the ISC will contribute to positive outcomes for acequias who are working to improve irrigation efficiency. The new fund will not be in effect until FY21 because the FY20 budget already had a $1.9 appropriation for the ISC acequia program. Also, the bill requires that the ISC develop guidelines for the program based on input from the New Mexico Acequia Commission and the New Mexico Acequia Association.
There aren’t many things Washington politicians agree on these days. The “legalization” of hemp, however, is one issue that both sides of the aisle agreed will benefit farmers across the country. The 2018 Farm Bill passed by Congress and signed into law in December declassified hemp as a controlled substance thereby opening up a market to farmers across the country. The production of hemp, a plant known for its ability to thrive in a wide range of temperature and soil types, may especially benefit farmers in the arid Southwest. New Mexico’s Department of Agriculture (NMDA), New Mexico State University (NMSU), and numerous entrepreneur-farmers are already looking to 2019 as a breakthrough year for hemp production in New Mexico. In fact, at least two bills are pending in our state legislature that aim to facilitate hemp production. Hemp has the potential to transform the agricultural landscape in New Mexico by offering small and large farmers a profitable alternative or supplement to crops like alfalfa, corn and chile. Hemp production is not a fad; rather, it could be a key component to an agricultural renaissance in New Mexico, hopefully putting fallow acequia-served land back into production.
There is a long history behind the prohibition, but the short answer is guilt by association. For decades, hemp was classified as a controlled substance because of its infamous cousin, marijuana. Fortunately for the farmer, the law now provides a clear, bright line between hemp and marijuana that should help to dispel myths and destigmatize hemp production. The NMDA’s Hemp Cultivation Rule released last December defines hemp as “the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of the plant, whether growing or not, containing a delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of no more than three-tenths percent (.3%) on a dry weight basis.” Clear and bright? Well, let’s break the definition down a bit.
You probably recognize the word cannabis and associate it with marijuana. You also probably recognize the chemical compound referenced in the definition as THC. Hemp, like marijuana, is the cannabis plant, but with one key difference: hemp has very little of the chemical compound, THC, that is associated with a “high”. In fact, to get the gold standard classification of hemp, your cannabis plant cannot have more than 0.3% THC. Anything above that percentage and your cannabis plant is marijuana, a controlled substance prohibited under federal law. And just to state the obvious, there are a lot of “cannabis” laws on the books currently dealing with medical and recreational cannabis. Those laws are not hemp laws because those laws deal with marijuana – cannabis plants with a concentration of more than 0.3% THC.
Hemp production, though legal, is regulated in ways that an alfalfa farmer, for example, might find burdensome. First, you need to have a license to grow and harvest hemp. Farmers apply to the NMDA for the license and can expect to pay at a minimum of $800 for an “annual production” license fee and $6.00 per acre. In addition to the fees, licensees are required to have their hemp crop tested to ensure that THC levels stay at or below 0.3%. According to the Rules, licensees are financially responsible for costs associated with delivery and testing of samples. If the samples test above 0.3%, and the NMDA determines that the crop needs to be destroyed, the cost of destruction is borne by the licensee. In addition to these costs, farmers who are interested in entering the market need to do their research in order to make a number of important decisions, for one, whether to start crops from seed or clones.
The NMAA recently hosted a hemp workshop that attracted a diverse group of people: acequia farmers, hemp experts, and the Secretary of the NMDA. The bottom line is that people are excited about hemp. They see hemp production as not only a burgeoning industry in New Mexico, but as a way to protect dormant acequia water rights. If you’re interested in growing hemp, you’ll want to do your homework – a quick internet search will provide you with tons of information on the variety of hemp products, from fiber to CBD oils used for pain management, and on the profitability of the crop. But, of course, the devil is in the details, and if you’re serious about producing hemp, you’ll want to contact local experts.
For a list of workshop presenters and other industry professionals that attended our workshop, call the NMAA at (505) 995-9644.
Acequias succeeded in passing four critical pieces of legislation that affirm acequia governance, improve transparency and due process at the Office of the State Engineer, and establish a stable revenue stream for acequia infrastructure. Acequia leaders from around the state attended hearings and gave testimony about the importance of these important policy changes. Several other partners also showed their support for the legislation, thereby helping to gain the support of legislators from across the state. The following four bills each passed both the House and Senate and are on the Governor’s desk.
Please call Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and ask that she sign the acequia and water bills! Call 505-476-2200.
SB 438/HB 517 (Cisneros, Campos, Romero, Gonzales) Acequia and Community Ditch Irrigation Fund – This legislation would create a fund of $2.5 million per year for the ISC Acequia Program. For years, the ISC has received an annual appropriation for the acequia program, which has been typically $1.9 million but it has been lower in some years. The purpose of this year’s legislation is to ensure that there is recurring revenue from the Irrigation Works Construction Fund for acequia projects with an increase from $1.9 to $2.5 million. This will stabilize the funding for future years.
SB 12 (Cisneros-Salazar) Water Notifications Online –This legislation will require that the Office of the State Engineer post notices of water applications on the agency website in addition to the current requirement of publishing in the newspaper. This will contribute to the protection of due process rights of those whose water rights might be affected by a water right decision by the State Engineer. This applies to new appropriations and water transfers.
HB 17 (Chandler-Wirth) Water Leases and Water Uses – This legislation, in its original form, would have clarified that the State Engineer cannot approve a permit for a water lease until all requirements for public hearings have been met. This bill is in response to what NMAA has determined is an unlawful practice of approving leases without due process protections for water right owners potentially impaired. The bill was narrowed down substantially with language that clarifies that any water leases into or out of acequia require acequia approval, provided the acequia has the authorizing language in their bylaws.
HB 379 (Chandler) Acequia Liens – This legislation would clarify that an acequia can obtain a money judgement from a Magistrate Court that can serve as a lien on property that has delinquencies. It simplifies the process of obtaining a lien so that it would no longer be necessary to go through District Court. It also has protections for the parciante by requiring notice and that the acequia release the lien when the delinquencies are paid.
The 2019 session will be remembered for sweeping legislation on education, tax policy, renewable energy, criminal justice reform, and public safety. Among all the legislation introduced, water, agriculture, and natural resource issues were included among the nearly 1,300 pieces of legislation introduced. Most of the bills were versions of legislation introduced from past years while there were also a few new initiatives that gained traction. The following is a summary of bills that passed:
SB 5 Interstate Stream Commission Membership. This would change the composition of the ISC by specifying which sectors of water stakeholders and experts will have seats on the commission. The bill includes one seat out for an acequia representative. Passed and on the Governor’s desk.
HB 37 No LEDA Funds for Water Rights Purchases. This legislation would prohibit the use of funds from the Local Economic Development Act (LEDA) from being used to purchase water rights. NMAA supported this bill because LEDA funds should be to strengthen local economies, not to take from an existing agricultural economy to lure an outside industry to the community. Passed and on the Governor’s desk.
HB 651 Water Data Act. This legislation creates a water data council with agencies and higher education institutions to standardize the management of water data in the state. The bill directs the council to develop consistent water data standards and best practices for data collection. Passed and on the Governor’s desk.
HB 204 Healthy Soils Act – This legislation would create a new program at the New Mexico Department of Agriculture to encourage farmers and ranchers to adopt practices that support healthy soils. Passed and on the Governor’s desk.
HB 581 Hemp Manufacturing Act. This legislation would expand commercial use of hemp and create a structure to regulate the production, testing, and manufacturing of hemp. The legislation would enable the growth of hemp as a potentially lucrative industry in New Mexico. Passed and on the Governor’s desk.
HB 266 Forest Restoration Fund. This legislation will support watershed health and forest restoration with funds to support on the ground projects. NMAA supported the concept of the bill but was unable to prevent the use the Irrigation Works Construction Fund. However, a compromise led to language in the budget bill that solvency issues of the Irrigation Works Construction Fund would be addressed in the next five years. Passed and on the Governor’s desk.
HB 315 Agricultural Workforce Development Act. Appropriates $250,000 to NMSU to administer an internship program for new and beginning farmers to get paid to work with existing farmers and ranchers. Passed and on the Governor’s desk.
HM 81 Rural Heritage Act Process – This memorial is intended to convene stakeholders who were involved in HB 332 Rural Heritage act. This legislation would have addressed the issues of rising property tax values in areas with historic agricultural lands by creating another category of taxation (unimproved lands). Lands in this category would be eligible for a special method that values the land at 25% of residential value. The bill faced some technical issues and a memorial HM 81 was introduced to bring stakeholder together to continue work on the concept.
The Congreso de las Acequias is the annual state-wide membership meeting of the NM Acequia Association, comprised of regional delegates from communities across the state. It is the ONLY statewide gathering of acequia leaders where we share knowledge and create strategies for protecting our acequias, the water that flows through them, and the healthy food that is grown with them.
We need your Support!
We have raised $3,200 out of $10,000!
Thank you to current Sponsors!
American Friends Service Committee
Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District
Tewa Women United
Guadalupe Credit Union
Santa Cruz Irrigation District
Gregory Swift, Acequia Commissioner
Con Alma Health Foundation
Waterwise Gardening, LLC
Del Norte Credit Union
And you can Sponsor the Congreso too!!!
Maíz — $1000
· REGISTRATION waived for EIGHT (8) individuals
· DISPLAY BOOTH in Exhibit Area
· COLOR HALF (1/2) Page Advertisement in Program
· ACKNOWLEDGEMENT in our Print Newsletter, Electronic Newsletter, and on our Website
Chile — $500
· REGISTRATION waived for Four (4) individuals
· DISPLAY BOOTH in Exhibit Area
· COLOR QUARTER (1/4) Page Advertisement in Program
· ACKNOWLEDGEMENT in our Print Newsletter, Electronic Newsletter, and on our Website
Hava — $250
· REGISTRATION waived for TWO (2) individuals
· DISPLAY BOOTH in Exhibit Area
· COLOR Business Card Advertisement in Program
· ACKNOWLEDGMENT in our Print Newsletter, Electronic Newsletter, and on our Website
Alverjon — $100
· REGISTRATION waived for One (1) individual
· NAME Listed in Program
· ACKNOWLEDGEMENT in our Print Newsletter , Electronic Newsletter, and on our Website
Please call or email Lori Spillman, 505-995-9644 or firstname.lastname@example.org
“Why are acequias important to your family, culture, or community?”
*Submit poems, videos, paintings, sketches, mixed media, models, and MORE!
Art participants are limited to one entry.
Acequia Photo Contest
Acequieros Working the Land
Digitally Altered Imagery
Food and Seed Traditions
*Photo participants are limited to one entry per category.
You could win the following prizes:
1st Place: $60.00 & NMAA T-Shirt | 2nd Place: $40.00 & NMAA T-Shirt | 3rd Place: $20.00 & NMAA T-shirt *Winners will be recognized at the 2018 Congreso de las Acequias!
Art must be submitted by October 31, 2018 Submissions must be sent either by snail mail or electronically, in high resolution jpeg format. Please mail to NM Acequia Association 805 Early Street Bldg. B, Suite 203 Santa Fe, NM 87505 or email to email@example.com along with the following information:
Name of Artist
Art/photo description or title(s)
Terms and conditions: Upon photo submission, you agree to the use of your work(s) in NMAA materials including but not limited to publications, calendar, website pages, and outreach materials. Photo credit will be given where appropriate.
SAN LUIS, CO (August 28, 2018). In 2002, in a historic ruling in the Lobato v. Taylor land rights case, the Colorado Supreme Court settled a decades-long legal struggle by the heirs of the 1844 Sangre de Cristo Land Grant. The 80,000-acre parcel is known locally as La Sierra (the Mountain Tract). It is vital to the Culebra River acequia villages in Costilla County which rely on these access rights to sustain a robust and sustainable local agricultural economy. The ruling restored to the heirs and successors of the land grant rights to gather firewood and construction materials and to graze livestock. In 2005, more than 350 families received keys for access to the land grant and the exercise of these rights.
On Sept. 5, 2018, the San Luis Land Rights Council (LRC) and its supporters will have to return to the courts to defend these rights yet again. Shirley M. Romero Otero, the President of the LRC, expressed the view that the ability of the heirs to use La Sierra remains a vital part of the economic stability and cultural survival of a unique farming community that is the living heart of the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area. The scheduled September 5 hearing is before the Colorado Court of Appeals in Denver.
The latest legal round was triggered by the new private owner of La Sierra (a.k.a. Cielo Vista Ranch), William Bruce Harrison, the scion of a wealthy Texas family with billions in oil wealth. Harrison is the fourth owner of the grant since the 2002 ruling. Prior owners included the disgraced head of the now defunct Enron Energy Services, Lou Pai. In the mid 1990s, then Colorado Governor Roy Romer established the Sangre de Cristo Land Grant Commission to try and resolve the dispute through a buy-out that would have converted the land into a state park and wildlife management area. The deal collapsed when Zachary Taylor, Jr. rejected an offer for $21 million in 1997. Harrison acquired ownership in February 2018 for a reported $105 million. The LRC has always opposed state ownership and emphasizes litigation to restore historic land use rights.
Established in 1978, the LRC was inspired by a legacy of local resistance led by the late Apolinar Rael during the 1960s land grant movement. In 1981, the LRC filed a class-action lawsuit against Jack T. Taylor, the North Carolina timber baron who acquired the grant in 1960. Taylor eventually lost because in 1960 he had promptly sued to keep the locals out but violated due process and equal protection standards when filing a quiet title action. Taylor and the lower courts failed to inform the majority of the land grant heirs, denying them their day in court to challenge Taylor’s quiet title action. The LRC sought to re-establish long-held community use rights to La Sierra, which the people were legally entitled to as confirmed under Mexican and U.S. law. The grant was patented by an act of Congress on June 21, 1860. After more than 37 years of court battles, the Culebra acequia village communities regained access rights when the Colorado Supreme Court issued its historic ruling in Lobato v. Taylor [71 P.3d 938 (2002)] on June 24, 2002.
The pursuit of land speculation by wealthy outsiders has led to the sale and re-sale of the land grant over the years. In this environment, it has proved difficult for the heirs to develop and implement a co-management plan to protect these rights and sustain a healthy ecosystem that makes exercise of these rights possible. Ms. Romero observes: “There have been four different owners over the past sixteen years since our rights were restored. How can we develop a plan when the private speculative parties keep changing? We now have an owner who wants to strip us of our rights. It is hard to negotiate a management plan with a hostile party. The fact that the land grant is constantly subject to speculation has made it difficult for the community to adopt and implement a co-management plan.”
Ms. Romero further noted: “Instead of trying to undermine established law and precedent, Mr. Harrison should work with us to take care of the mountain and restore the forests from damage caused by excessive logging operations by the Taylor family. We’ve taken care of that mountain for more than 150 years and that is why the wealthy speculators are drawn here. Our knowledge of the ecology of La Sierra is the only thing that has sustained this watershed. Mr. Harrison should work with us to protect the source of our heritage and livelihoods instead of attacking legally established rights.” Ms. Romero describes a recent meeting with the thirty-year old Harrison: “He claims that he is a conservationist but told us during a recent meeting [with the LRC] that he purchased the mountain because he ‘needs a place to play.’”
Dr. Devon G. Peña, a local farmer and President of The Acequia Institute and former officer with the Sangre de Cristo Acequia Association, observes: “For the local acequia farmers who are land grant heirs, some of the most important rights tied to La Sierra are the oldest water rights in the state of Colorado. That mountain is our watershed and protecting the forest is vital to the survival of the oldest family farms in the state, especially in a time of climate change. It is astounding that we have a newcomer speculator who ignores legal precedent and the rights of the local people to continue sustainable use. The community has been a good protector of the land grant despite abuses by an ever-shifting cast of rich men seeking a prestigious playground. We advocate for a co-management plan that focuses on creating jobs for local people to work restoring the ecosystem of La Sierra that was so badly damaged by decades of excessive logging by private land speculators with no ties to the community.”
For more information contact: Shirley M. Romero, President, Land Rights Council. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone: 970-640-8014
The New Mexico Acequia Association is pleased to announce another successful statewide acequia conference on June 21th 2018 at Los Luceros Historic Ranch in Alcalde. This year, we focused on the struggle of drought and highlighting innovative ways that acequia leaders are managing water, enhancing soil health, and more effectively communicating with our neighbors to overcome dry times. The morning began with a procession to the orchard where the Hermanos Penitentes lead with a prayer for San Ysidro, setting the tone for a day in deep meditation for rain, water and one another.
There was a dynamic and very heartfelt conversation that carried on throughout the day. Acequia farmers shared their experience in sharing water but also what is not working within their communities that makes farming in New Mexico one of the most difficult. In unity, the larger acequia community leans on one another, lending out knowledge, seeds, and wisdom to help one another continue to farm and preserve our cultural heritage in times of uncertainty.
We want to personally thank and celebrate all of you for making the time and effort to be there and for bringing the knowledge back to your communities. Special thanks to Norma Naranjo who prepared a delicious meal for lunch, Donne and Edward Gonzales who facilitated an educational drip irrigation demonstration, and all of our presenters who shared knowledge about farming methods that are feasible with little water.
Please look for a full summary of the conference in our electronic newsletter in July!
WASHINGTON – June 28th, 2018, U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) announced that they have secured a provision in the Senate’s 2018 Farm Bill to make acequias eligible for grants and technical assistance from conservation and environmental programs through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) to increase agricultural water efficiency and further conservation of soil, water, and other natural resources.
Acequias provide water for many small and traditional farmers in New Mexico. There are hundreds of acequia associations throughout the state that will be eligible under Senators Udall and Heinrich’s provision. Udall and Heinrich have long worked to help New Mexico’s traditional communities access federal programs and funding for water and resource conservation projects. In 2017, the senators introduced the Providing Land Grants and Acequias Conservation and Environmental Services (PLACES) Act of 2017, legislation that forms the basis of Udall and Heinrich’s farm bill provision. The 2018 Farm Bill improves upon the PLACES Act by granting acequias direct access to NRCS programs by expressly including them as eligible entities for NRCS programs. This cuts red tape and allows for parity with other producers.
“Acequias and the majordomos and parciantes that operate them represent an integral part of New Mexico’s centuries’ old heritage that continues to this day, providing good stewardship for our land and helping maintain our state’s water infrastructure since before statehood,” Udall said. “Acequias hold great historical and cultural significance in New Mexico, and acequia users produce healthy food for our families and communities, protect our water quality, and conserve our lands. Our water, agricultural lands, and rural areas will benefit now that acequia associations can apply directly for NRCS grants and technical assistance. For too long, the federal government did not recognize acequias as eligible entities and producers could not easily access these federal programs. Our new provision in the Farm Bill remedies that.”
“Acequias are the lifeblood of northern New Mexico’s rural communities. New Mexico’s acequia associations and land grants should be able to access important federal water and land conservation programs and resources just like any other irrigation districts,” Heinrich said. “By securing this provision in the Farm Bill, we can improve the process to allow New Mexico communities to access the resources they need to make long-term plans on a landscape scale and conserve our vital natural resources for future generations.”
The bill makes acequias eligible for grants and technical assistance from the NCRS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Conservation Stewardship Program, and Agricultural Conservation Easement Program.
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program helps agricultural producers adopt practices that ensure sustainable production on farms, ranches, and working forest lands that protect soil, water, plan, wildlife, and other natural resources. Funds from EQIP can be used to improve irrigation delivery systems – like water control structures, pipelines, and concrete ditches – that benefit individual or multiple land owners.
The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) helps producers build on their initial conservation efforts while strengthening their operations through increasing crop yields, improving grazing conditions, developing wildlife habitat, and other measures. New Mexico has the second highest number of acres enrolled in CSP.
The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program helps conserve agricultural lands through easements that limit non-agricultural uses and helps protect wetlands through easements that restore and enhance wetlands.
Acequia associations are political subdivisions of the State of New Mexico, but unlike other subdivisions, they can’t levy taxes on users. Therefore, the cost of upkeep and repairs is borne by individual members of the community. Direct access to NRCS grants and technical assistance will give acequias access to needed resources to improve their farm and ranch operations, carry on their cultural traditions, institute sustainable practices, and protect our natural resources.
Ralph Vigil, Chair of the New Mexico Acequia Commission stated, “Our Acequias have been the life and blood of New Mexico’s communities for over 500 years and have persevered in times of drought and water shortages over the centuries. As we continue to experience changes in our climate and ecosystem, this legislation will provide the necessary tools in building long term sustainability for our Acequia communities for the next 500 years.”
“We greatly appreciate the efforts of Senators Udall and Heinrich to improve the eligibility of acequias for conservation programs in the Farm Bill,” said Paula Garcia, Executive Director of the New Mexico Acequia Association. “Acequias are centuries-old irrigation systems that support the livelihood of farmers and ranchers who contribute to New Mexico’s agricultural economy and cultural heritage. Investment in conservation practices and improvements in acequias will help to expand the availability of locally grown food and support the livelihood of farmers and ranchers.”
### Contacts: Ned Adriance (Udall) 202.228.6870 / Whitney Potter (Heinrich) 202.228.1578