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New Extension Specialists Will Assist Minority Farmers in Northern New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE -- A new team of New Mexico State University specialists will work with Native American and Hispanic farmers and ranchers in northern New Mexico to increase participation in government aid programs and provide training and technical assistance in rangeland, forest and watershed management.

A $277,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant has allowed NMSU's Rural Agricultural Improvement and Public Affairs Project (RAIPAP) to double its staff to eight full-time agricultural and natural resource specialists.

RAIPAP, based in Alcalde, is run by NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service, and provides training and assistance for producers in ll north-central counties. For the first time in 20 years, Extension will now have two agricultural agents for the eight northern and 10 southern pueblos, said Edmund Gomez, RAIPAP executive director.

"Many minority producers in northern New Mexico haven't taken advantage of available programs and projects, so we're expanding our outreach to them," Gomez said. "In the past, the USDA expected clients to come looking for assistance, but it's more effective if we go to them through direct community outreach."

The grant reflects efforts to promote more minority participation in federal programs around the country, Gomez said. The 2002 Farm Bill increased funding for outreach grants from $10 million to $25 million, he said.

RAIPAP hired two New Mexicans familiar with agriculture in northern counties to work with Indian pueblos. Hayley Beth Encinias, a Corrales native, will work with the northern pueblos and Cristina Turner of Las Vegas with the southern.

Encinias has a bachelor's degree in agriculture from NMSU and a master's degree in ruminant nutrition from North Dakota State University. Turner has a bachelor's in agriculture from NMSU and until recently worked as assistant coordinator of a 4-H after-school program with the Rio Arriba County Extension office.

"Both have strong backgrounds in animal science, and they're very familiar with the diverse cultures of northern New Mexico," Gomez said.

Encinias and Turner will establish 4-H youth development programs on the reservations and work with adults in agriculture, livestock and economic development. They will educate pueblo producers about grants, credit and technical assistance available for small-scale farmers and ranchers and assist individuals in applying for assistance.

RAIPAP hired Ursula Rosauer as a natural resources specialist, based in Taos. Rosauer will work with land permittees who graze cattle on the Carson, Santa Fe and Cibola national forests, connecting ranchers with state and federal programs and teaching about proper range management and monitoring. She'll also work with property owners in woodland communities to help them get funding for defensible landscaping and forest thinning and to assist local companies in winning contracts for those projects.

Rosauer, who earned a bachelor's degree in fisheries and wildlife science from Michigan State University, worked for nearly two years on a project to monitor mountain elk in northern New Mexico.

Tim Tapia is RAIPAP's new small business development agent, based in Albuquerque. Tapia will serve as a liaison between government agencies and Extension agents and specialists.

"He's our 'go-get-em' guy to connect agents, specialists and individual producers with state and federal assistance programs," Gomez said. "He'll help develop business plans for individuals interested in starting or expanding businesses, and he'll assist producers in filling out loan applications and other paperwork."

Tapia, a Nambé native, earned a bachelor's degree in animal science from NMSU and a master's degree in business administration from the University of New Mexico.

Meanwhile, RAIPAP hired Manuel Encinias as a natural resources specialist in Alcalde, a position created in 2000 but vacant since June 2001. Encinias will do research and training in watershed, rangeland, wildlife and forestry management.

A Moriarty native, Encinias earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in animal science from NMSU and a doctorate in animal science from North Dakota State University. He worked as a beef cattle Extension associate and ruminant nutrition technician in Fargo, N.D.