Searching for a New Mexico politician to respect* sent me back to the beginning of the last century - to U.S. Senator Bronson Cutting. What would he think of industrial hemp and genetically engineered seed? In Bronson's day hemp was grown in New Mexico. Testimony on Representative Begaye's Industrial Hemp bill included that of a man who recounted how his grandfather grew it successfully in Truchas for many years.
House Bill 575 is at least the fifth attempt at legislation for industrial hemp production. In 2009 there were memorials and two bills that died. Two bills in 2001 died in committee. In 2000 HB 388 died in committee. In 1998 a bill passed both houses, but was vetoed by Governor Johnson. (Go figure.)
Efforts to liberalize hemp elsewhere are having a similarly bumpy ride.
In the House Agriculture committee debate on HB575, Representative Cervantes suggested the bill didn't need all that pesky licensing and fees wording. The bill was temporarily tabled for gutting and hasn't been seen since.
Now, if it was about using genetically modified hemp seed from Monsanto, we might get somewhere.
The House floor debate and vote on Representative Bandy's GMO bill, House Bill 46, afforded a brilliant display of indifference. The bill was aimed at protecting farmers from biotech companies like Monsanto who sue farmers for patent infringement where genetically modified seeds contaminate other seed stock.
Opponents of the bill on the House floor were on both sides of the aisle. One argued that since no one has been sued in New Mexico yet, why worry. Representative Cervantes talked so much about the importance of GMO to his large farm that I figured he would claim it was a conflict and not vote. Silly me. His Farminess said large scale farming needs all the help it can get from technology, like that's a good thing.
He made a couple of vaguely dismissive references to small farmers and organic agriculture and Representative Candy Ezzell smelled hippy. In her rodeo queen, rancher, and oil and gas world dramatic drawl she said GMO seeds help farmers feed the state, feed the country, feed the world. Representative Andy Nunez piped up about how seed contamination is just cross-pollination and, you know, how can that be bad?
It is infuriating to sit and listen day after day to what passes for debate in the New Mexico House and Senate. On the other hand, who wants to miss it? Truth is stranger than fiction. Even if it is hard to hear hour after hour, it is still a priviledge. Even with the inane debates and stupid ever evolving rules about laptops and cameras and power cords. It is still a priviledge.
UPDATE: Fischmann's Senate Bill 51 is still alive. It was referred to the Senate Conservation Committee.
*as the subject of my historical fiction