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New regulations for buying/selling pecans subject of upcoming hearing in Artesia

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The New Mexico Department of Agriculture will hold public hearings next month, including a meeting in Artesia, to consider new rules to regulate the buying and selling of in-shell pecans in the state.

The Artesia meeting will be held 11 a.m. Monday, June 18, at the Artesia Public Schools administrative offices, 301 Bulldog Blvd.

The matter to be discussed regarding pecan buyers involves amendments to a 1997 rule that regulates devices and procedures involved in measuring and weighing products sold to the public. The rule will require that devices be tested and certified.

The rule-making issue follows the passage of a Senate bill during this year’s legislative session that now requires people in the state buying and selling more than 100 pounds of in-shell pecans a year to obtain a $500 annual license and to keep detailed records about purchases. The new law also gives law enforcement the right to inspect licenses and records and to enforce compliance, with non-compliance subject to misdemeanor charges and fines.

In talking about the new law at a March meeting with agricultural leaders in Roswell, the New Mexico State Agriculture Secretary Jeff Witte said the measure was needed not only to help control the pecan weevil, a pest spotted in a few home orchards in 2016, but also to prevent theft. He said, in some areas of the state, pecan thefts had become a huge problem, with some people literally backing up trucks to pecan trees to take them from pecan growers.

New Mexico is the second-largest pecan grower in the nation. In 2016, production totaled 72 million pounds and was valued at $213.1 million. In Chaves County, 2016 production was 5 million pounds.