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Commissioners to discuss state meat inspection program


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The Chaves County Board of Commissioners is considering backing an effort to restart a state meat inspection program.

A resolution expressing support for the initiative is on the agenda for the commissioners’ Thursday morning meeting.

Supporters of the initiative, which include the New Mexico Livestock Board and the New Mexico Department of Agriculture, have said that a state inspection program is needed to supplement the federal inspection system because New Mexico ranchers have a need for new ways to sell the meat they produce. The supply-chain disruptions caused by the pandemic at feedlots and federal inspection facilities highlighted that need, according to some.

“COVID proved one thing among many things, that there is a great desire among citizens of New Mexico for local beef products,” said Secretary of Agriculture Jeff Witte to legislators during a Nov. 10 Legislative Economic and Rural Development Committee meeting.

With a state inspection program, meat producers would be able to sell products directly to New Mexico retailers.

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A bill to authorize and establish a state inspection operation is expected to be introduced to the New Mexico Legislature during the January 2021 session, with sponsors likely to include District 38 State Rep. Rebecca Dow, R-Truth or Consequences, who was a co-sponsor of a similar bill during the June special session that was never considered, given that the special session focused on the budget and coronavirus economic relief.

The state agencies supporting the measure have estimated that it would cost $2 million to start the inspection program, which would have annual operating costs of about $1.6 million. But representatives of the agencies said during the Economic and Rural Development Committee meeting that a state inspection system similar to what already operates in more than 25 other states and existed here until 2007 would mean more jobs in the state, increased revenues for ranchers and meat producers, and more opportunities for agribusinesses.

The commissioners also are scheduled to consider several other issues. That includes a public hearing about an ordinance that would allow it to keep the county Labor Management Relations Board to hear matters related to unions, employee grievances and other workers’ issues.

A new state law requires local governments to pass such ordinances to keep their boards. Without such authorization, labor issues would need to be heard by the state board, the New Mexico Public Employees Labor Relations Board.

County Manager Stanton Riggs said during a previous board meeting that county matters could take a long time to be heard by that group since it has a “backlog of cases.” He also said the state board is more heavily represented by advocates for unions than for management.

The local group has three appointed members, a labor representative, a management representative and a neutral representative.

The county has one union, a local chapter of the International Union of Police Associations, which represents some employees and deputies of the Sheriff’s Office.

The Chaves County Administrative Center remains closed to the public, except by appointment, due to pandemic-related health orders. The public can participate in the 9 a.m. meeting via the livestreamed broadcast at www.facebook.com/ChavesCountyNM/.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.