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USDA provides $105K for NM projects

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New Mexico entities have received $105,000 in U.S. Department of Agriculture funding for three projects intended to help control plant diseases and plant pests in New Mexico and nearby regions.

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the USDA announced Tuesday the 2021 funding for its plant pest and disease management and disaster prevention program (PPDMDPP).

The agency made 354 awards nationwide for a total of $62.5 million for the pest and disease management program. It also awarded an additional $7.5 million for 29 projects under its National Clean Plant Network program, but none of those projects are coordinated by New Mexico entities.

According to information posted on the USDA website, New Mexico will benefit from three funding awards. The New Mexico Department of Agriculture received $35,000 for a pecan nut pest survey and $30,000 for an invasive species outreach and education effort. The Indian Nations Conservation Alliance received $40,000 for a project called “Outreach and Education for Multiple Tribes in the Western United States.”

The state Agriculture Department intends to use the pecan pest funding for early detection of pests that could endanger the state’s largest crop, in terms of cash receipts, according to information provided by Kristie Garcia, NMDA public affairs director. New Mexico is the nation’s largest pecan producer, and Chaves County is the third largest producer of pecans in the state, with 7.9 million pounds in 2018, according to statistics published by the NMDA.

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Methods used could include traps in commercial orchards and visual inspections of pecan cleaning facilities for early evidence of invasive species.

“Early detection of invasive pests provides the New Mexico Department of Agriculture and the pecan industry the best opportunity to implement eradication strategies to minimize the economic impact of new pecan pests in the state and region,” the NMDA information stated.

For its outreach and educational project, the Agriculture Department will work with Cooperative Extension Service staff of New Mexico State University and with associations and groups that market and advocate for agricultural commodities to distribute information about invasive plant pest species and the role federal and state agencies hold in managing pest and disease threats. In addition, various means will be used to get information to master gardeners, the retail and wholesale nursery industries, and members of the public.

“New Mexico Department of Agriculture recognizes the importance of involving a wider number of citizens in protecting the regions ecosystems from establishment of invasive pests through increased awareness and education, which in turn allows the state to identify high-risk pathways and aids in the protection of New Mexico’s natural agriculture, forests and flora,” the state department said.

Requests for information about the Indian Nations Conservation Alliance (INCA) project were not responded to by press time.

The website for INCA indicates that the organization has its headquarters in El Prado, New Mexico, and represents members from numerous tribal conservation districts in the United States and Canada.

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