Tierra Amarilla, N.M. – U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), a member of the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, visited Rio Arriba County to celebrate recent announcements by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) agreeing to fully compensate farmers and ranchers for unfair changes made to the Non-insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) reimbursement rate and pausing a policy change made under the Trump administration to stop covering drought claims on acequia-irrigated lands.
Senator Luján visited the Casados ranch hosted by Tony Casados, an impacted farmer and rancher, in Ensenada N.M., just outside of Tierra Amarilla.
“Growing up on a small farm in Nambé, I learned that our farmers and ranchers are essential workers and pillars of our communities. I also understand the importance of our acequias to irrigate our lands – and taking care of our acequias is part of our way of life as New Mexicans,” said Luján. “Because of this, I could not stop fighting to ensure that Rio Arriba farms and ranches were treated equitably, and that the families who run them were treated with respect. I was proud to join local farmers and ranchers today to celebrate the USDA’s announcement that they would do right by our farmers, ranchers, and traditional communities.”
During the Trump administration in 2018, the New Mexico FSA office abruptly reduced the crop yield to trigger NAP assistance, pulling the rug out from under farmers and ranchers and causing unnecessary financial hardship. Then-Congressman Ben Ray Luján sprang into action to address this injustice, meeting with then-USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue to advocate on behalf of the Rio Arriba farmers and ranchers. Secretary Perdue agreed to allow producers who had already received the full pay out to keep the relief that they were paid.
The farmers and ranchers who received a lower payment appealed the decision to the USDA National Appeals Division, which ruled in their favor. For two years, the Farm Service Agency office in New Mexico laid obstacles to avoid paying Rio Arriba’s farmers and ranchers the relief they were initially promised.
Following his confirmation, Secretary Tom Vilsack immediately began working with Senator Luján to provide equitable relief and to pause the policy change announced under the Trump administration to stop covering drought claims on acequia-irrigated lands for additional review.