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Torres Small urges protections for New Mexico dairy industry


Calling the dairy industry “one of our biggest agriculture commodities,” U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, D-N.M., is urging U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and U.S. Department of Agriculture Sec. Sonny Perdue to enforce provisions of the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) to protect New Mexico dairy farmers.

She also is encouraging the Trump Administration to better understand the state’s dairy industry and the impact in New Mexico of federal policies that benefit dairies in other parts of the country.

Tariff rate quotas (FRQ) that are part of the USMCA will increase U.S. imports to Canada and are “really crucial for dairy producers across the country,” Torres Small said in a recent telephone interview.

Torres Small said she is concerned about “Canada playing fair in terms of implementing the TRQ,” which became effective Aug. 1.

An important provision of USMCA is the “increased enforcement mechanism that it provides,” Torres Small said. “Canada has had issues with TRQ with other countries,” she said, and it’s important that “Canada keeps its word” with regard to U.S. dairy imports.

Torres Small cosigned an Aug. 13 bi-partisan letter to Lighthizer and Perdue “urging them to act swiftly to ensure Canada and Mexico abide by the new dairy commitments” that are part of USMCA, she said in a news release. She signed a letter to Trump in April “demanding the elimination of payment limits for specialty crop, dairy and livestock producers” in COVID-19 funds “that really favored dairy farmers in other parts of the country” at the expense of the New Mexico industry, Torres Small said.

Torres Small said New Mexico dairy farmers and other agricultural producers “face unprecedented challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic,“ including breaking down supply chains reducing restaurant orders of dairy products, and that makes enforcement of USMCA provisions “all the more critical.”

“New Mexico’s dairy farmers depend on a robust and fair export market for dairy products,” Dairy Producers of New Mexico Executive Director Beverly Idsinga said in the news release. “Milk from our farms is processed into any number of exported cheeses and dairy ingredients. USMCA will help ensure fair terms of trade, but only if Canada and Mexico are obligated to follow-through on their commitments. Already, our farms are concerned that Canada’s promises to open markets and to eliminate trade-distorting pricing systems are being avoided. That simply cannot be tolerated.”

According to the New Mexico Department of Agriculture, New Mexico was ranked ninth among all 50 states in milk production in 2018 at 8.285 million pounds and fourth in cheese production, at almost 900,000 pounds. The state has about 330,000 milk cows, each producing more than 25,000 pounds of milk. Doña Ana County had 30,000 milk cows as of Jan. 1, 2019. The county produced 667,700 pounds of milk in 2018.

 Torres Small encouraged New Mexicans to support the dairy industry by buying and consuming dairy products produced in the state, including milk, ice cream and cheese.

Torres Small, who lives in Las Cruces, is a member of the U.S. House Agriculture, Armed Services and Homeland Security committees.

Torres Small supports PPP loan forgiveness program

U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small has announced her support for the bipartisan Paycheck Protection Small Business Forgiveness Act, which her office said is “a bill that expedites forgiveness for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans of $150,000 or less. This legislation would streamline the process for small business owners to certify compliance with PPP requirements and expedite the loan forgiveness process for about 86 percent of PPP borrowers, including 86-89 percent of New Mexican small businesses who received PPP loans.”.

“PPP loans have been a critical lifeline to support our smallest small businesses across New Mexico during the pandemic,” Torres Small said. “But we can’t stop there. We must make the PPP loan forgiveness process as easy and straightforward for our smallest small businesses who are already operating on slim margins. This program was designed to be forgivable, which is why I’m proud to fight for bipartisan legislation that would help our New Mexican business owners and streamline the forgiveness process.”

The act was introduced in the U.S. Senate June 30 by U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-North Dakota.