US Rep. Deb Haaland, NM CD-1, and Jeff Witte, Sec. NM Dept Agriculture
Air Dates: May 23-25, 2020
This week's guests are U.S. Congresswoman Deb Haaland with an important update on COVID-19 and its devastating effects on Indian Country, and Jeff Witte, Director/Secretary of Agriculture, New Mexico Dept. of Agriculture, discussing what the Ag Department is doing to help New Mexicans in this challenging time of food supply-chain insecurity and the changing food landscape.
Rep. Deb Haaland, represents New Mexico's 1st Congressional District, and is one of the first Native American women elected to Congress. Haaland discusses the coronavirus pandemic as it affects the Navajo Nation and other tribal communities.
The Congresswoman describes her work in the US House of Representatives on the Heroes Act, an important piece of legislation that was passed in the house that will help so many people including the Navajo nation, tribal governments across the country, and essential workers. Some of the bill's highlights include protecting our essential workers, supporting state, local and tribal governments so that the costs of dealing with the pandemic don't bankrupt them (to the tune of over $875 billion), and “stop movement” protection orders to support our military families.
The importance of the 2020 Census, and the urgency that New Mexicans fight against the undercounting of our citizens that results in underfunding all our basic needs, was emphasized by Haaland in her call to “Fill Out the Census Form!”
Our second guest, Jeff Witte, was named New Mexico’s fifth permanent Director/Secretary of Agriculture in May 2011. Witte details the importance of agriculture in New Mexico's economy and feels assured that the agriculture community
can keep New Mexicans fed during the pandemic. New Mexico’s 70 local farmers markets and the strength of the local meat-producing farms and ranches provide plenty of nourishing food.
Secretary Witte reveals the many ways the Department of Agriculture is stepping up to help in this crisis. The Department's web site www.nmda.nmsu.edu has many excellent programs to assist New Mexicans in getting access to food, seeds, and direct producer-to-consumer marketing of all kinds of agriculture products.
The “Seed to Supper” program will send out free vegetable garden seeds to all New Mexicans.
Director Witte reveals the important broadband expansion program in partnership with Secretary Perdue of the US Dept of Agriculture, that will provide internet accessibility to 90,000 people living in rural areas of the state such as Eastern New Mexico, the Peñasco area, and Acoma Pueblo.
“New Mexico's got a good strong agricultural tradition...we've got to keep it all together and keep it in the family,” suggests Witte, “The family is the state of New Mexico. It's not just who lives in your house, we are the family. And I see a lot of great opportunities ahead.”
Witte was also past president of the Western Association of State Departments of Agriculture. He’s also past Chair of Natural Resources, Pesticide Management and Environment Committee for NASDA.