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Noticias de las Acequias
New Mexico Acequia Association
January 2013
In This Issue...
2013 Legislative Tracker
Ongoing Research Illustrates Benefits of Acequias
Message from Embudo Farmer Margaret Campos
USDA Updates & Deadlines
Drought Assistance Available for NM Counties
2013 Legislative Tracker
New Mexico Roundhouse

The New Mexico Acequia Association is tracking several bills this legislative session. Our bill tracker is updated daily, so please check it regularly for updates on bill actions, committee meetings, etc. 
Ongoing Research Illustrates Benefits of Acequias
By Quita Ortiz
The community of Valdez is within the study region. Photo by Quita Ortiz.

For the past decade, Dr. Sam Fernald, a watershed management professor in the Range Sciences Department at New Mexico State University, has led an effort to research acequias, New Mexico's centuries-old irrigation and water governance system, in the community of Alcalde in Rio Arriba County, specifically surrounding the hydrology characteristics of acequias and how they interact with shallow groundwater. This acequia hydrology research dates back to the early 2000's and a few years later a land use change analysis in Alcalde was incorporated into Dr. Fernald's hydrology research to gain a better understanding of how land use change can impact water management, riparian ecosystems, and acequia culture. Knowing that acequias were at particular risk due to increasing urbanization pressures and the potential impacts on actual water use, water quality, and riparian vegetation along irrigation ditches and streams, the connections between land use and water management were apparent.


Dr. Fernald's early hydrology studies were promising for acequias, indicating a reciprocal relationship between flood irrigating and groundwater recharge as well as contributing to the riparian vegetation in our communities, generating ecosystem services by providing a diverse habitat for wildlife. He's been persistent at obtaining funds to continue and expand this research and was successful in obtaining a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), which is currently funding a four-year multidisciplinary research effort to model the sustainability of acequias. This study is taking acequias into account as holistic systems that link water, environment, and cultural livelihood. This research aims to understand how and why acequias have remained resilient in face of urbanization, ever increasing water demands, and climate change. Project partners include NMSU, UNM, New Mexico Tech, Sandia Laboratories, and the New Mexico Acequia Association.


The human aspect of acequias has now become part of this process and researchers are now studying acequias in a much more inclusive manner, characterizing them as the sustainable water management systems that they embody. Furthermore, they're being researched on a larger geographic scale by establishing the link between the valleys that acequias irrigate and their upland watershed, not only as the source of water but also taking into account the land base from which acequia users harvest timber and graze livestock.  


The current research effort, which is now in its third year, expanded the study site from Alcalde to also include acequias along the El Rito (Rio Chama tributary) and Rio Hondo (Rio Grande tributary) stream systems in north central New Mexico. All three sites support acequia-related activities, but they differ in their physical geography, water availability, and spatial patterns such as proximity to urban centers.  


There are number of threats to acequia communities that have been identified including population growth, climate change, and policies that regulate land and water resources. Acequias have a good track record for their ability to adapt to changes that have been induced largely by urbanization and modified economic structures. But they are now facing challenges with increased intensity and complexity. Examples include prolonged drought and determined water markets aimed at transferring water out of rural communities to other uses.  


Using different modeling approaches, the hydrology results show that seepage from earthen ditches and field percolation recharge the shallow aquifer. This, in turn, becomes groundwater flow for future use as it holds the water upstream for a longer period. Floodplain models indicate that groundwater recharge would be affected if earthen canals and their related activities were eliminated, reducing overall aquifer recharge. So even though there are technologies that are intended to conserve water, they don't address the fact that there's a key connection between surface and groundwater supplies. Drip irrigation, for example, might conserve upfront water use, but it's also allowing more water to run downstream sooner.  


Dr. José Rivera, a UNM professor at the School of Architecture and Planning, has led the sociocultural research surrounding this study and was assisted by retired UNM professor, Dr. Sylvia Rodriguez, and the New Mexico Acequia Association staff. Focus groups were conducted in summer 2012 at the different study sites and gleaned a wealth of sociocultural data surrounding acequia water sharing and distribution customs; water governance; food, seed and agriculture traditions; land use and land ownership trends; livestock and ranching trends; and mutualism, which involves community cohesion such as shared cultural values and participation in other community endeavors (for example, livestock associations and mutual domestic water associations). In other words, this facet of the research attempts to understand why acequias maintain their traditions despite the many external forces working against rural livelihoods.  


Other data that were incorporated into this study include economics and land use. Future steps include integrating all of the quantifiable data into a model which can then simulate different scenarios that depict the sustainability of acequias. This involves using the two major stressors, population growth and climate change, to determine amount of stress that would impose irreversible impacts to the entire system. Hopefully this data will provide acequias with a framework that assists them in recognizing steps that would help to evade potential negative scenarios. The goal of this research is to determine how acequias can provide insight into resource sustainability by understanding their capacity to adapt; and identify potential strategies for acequias to continue adapting to ongoing changes in the areas of economics, resource policy, and climate change.  


From an academic perspective, we're beginning to understand the relationship between acequia irrigation ditches and the natural environment at the regional watershed scale. Most acequia research endeavors to date have been segregated into different fields-policy, local water governance, water rights adjudication, water transfers, land use change, agricultural economics, etc. However, this study is the first in New Mexico that views acequias as the complex system that they symbolize. An acequia is not simply an irrigation ditch; rather it represents a multifaceted system characterized by humans that have historically worked with the environment in a sustainable manner by combining water governance, agriculture, resource management, and cultural identity.  


As part of this NSF-funded research effort, the group will host a symposium, "Acequias and the Future of Resilience in Global Perspective" which is being coordinated by Dr. Sylvia Rodriguez. It will bring together scholars from around the world to share their research on similar human-environment systems. The symposium will be followed by a workshop featuring panelists that are working on acequias issues in New Mexico to discuss the future steps that are necessary regarding research and policy to ensure ongoing acequia resiliency. It will be held at the Las Cruces Convention Center on March 2nd and 3rd. 


To register for this event visit If you have questions about this event or this project, feel free to contact NMAA.

Message from Embudo Farmer Margaret Campos
Algo Nativo Greenhouse

I am sitting here facing another 6° morning, watching the "scartcha" on my vehicle, so thick it looks like a light dusting of snow. Today I need to go out to the cold-frame and pick salad greens to fill an order we have,. The orders keep coming and the greens keep growing, it is quite remarkable when you consider we've been hitting zero degrees quite frequently here in Embudo. I know it will be a lot warmer inside the cold-frame, but I have to wait for the sake of the tender leaves of the lettuce. This time of morning, they are still frozen and will easily damage with my touch or the touch of the row cover if it should pass over them as I remove it. Also, with the row cover removed they will be exposed to the frigid temperatures that the cover protects them from. The heavy row-cover we use provides approximately 20°+ of protection, but the plastic cover of the cold-frame, offers very little as an insulator. It's main benefit is the protection it offers from the wind; that is why you should cover or repair any cracks you may have on your cold-frame lining. It seems almost improbable, but tucked away beneath the row cover and the protection of the cold-frame's plastic, the salad greens, cilantro, kale, carrots, beets, spinach and radishes don't seem too bothered by the freeze outside.


I wish I could say that the tomatoes are thriving as well, but that is not the case. The photo below shows how beautiful they were after a few freezes before November 6th, but they haven't done so well thereafter, in the single digit temperatures we've been hitting recently. I think I need a little more heat in my house. We have totally lost all the green beans we tried in our heated greenhouse, the basil and squash as well.....but remarkably, the tomatoes are hanging in there, and we expect to have them bounce back as they did last winter, and produce sometime in April, to take to market early.


The great thing about that structure is that the investment is paid for. From here on out anything we make is profit, and the cost of electricity is way lower than we ever expected. In the coldest months, the bill has been no more than $100.00 per month, about the equivalent of one days picking. Our next project will be to get the whole thing off the grid and rely on the electricity only as a back-up, there is a USDA program for that as well. It is called REAP, the Rural Energy for America Program which provides funding for solar installation and upgrades. 


 So, I can honestly say that I owe this structure to the US Department of Agriculture, muchisimas gracias tio Sam! The USDA NRCS EQIP program reimbursed me for the initial $4,746. I received the other $14,723 from the USDA Western SARE Grant Program in the form of funding for a research project that I conducted in the heated green-house (I grew tomatoes and performed calculations). I can even say that the Technical Assistance salary that I received from the New Mexico Acequia Association to visit with our gente, sharing information and ideas, the training that I performed, and the voice that they ultimately gave me, also helped to pay for more infrastructure on my farm. Also, if it weren't for other USDA Programs we might not have the level of technical assistance, infrastructure development, training, investment and support to preserve our natural resources in our area that we now do. However, all this is not without a price or some small effort on the part of all of us who farm, ranch or otherwise produce some form of agricultural goods.


The USDA has a budget that is divided among the States and the basis of that allocation is the number of farmers and ranchers counted in each State. The number comes from the USDA Agricultural Census. So, now that we all went to the mailbox and received notice of the Census, we should take the time to visit and fill this out - it is due February 4th. If you don't know how, have your grandchild help you - they'll know how and while you are at you can it explain to them the importance of being counted. We need to be counted so that the proper amount of dollars comes to New Mexico. We are notorious for disregarding this which results in our programs, and ultimately us, missing out on some great opportunities. Without these programs I couldn't expect to grow cherry tomatoes all winter long. It was hard enough to save or borrow the pieces, sometimes the only way I could borrow was with the governments' guarantee of a reimbursement. The $21,000 investment for this project would have otherwise been totally out of my reach.


Another thing worth mentioning is Senate Bill 80, sponsored by Senator Pete Campos, which supports an appropriation of $1.44 million dollars to support the purchase of fresh fruits and vegetables directly from our local farmers. This bill helps everyone, our kids, our farmers, our economy. This will ensure that the farmers' that are beginning to grow lettuce and other vegetables in their new cold-frames (from NRCS funding), will have a market to sell their produce to during the winter months. There aren't very many winter farmers' markets and not all wholesale prices are as reasonable as the schools are paying in Albuquerque where this program has already been tested, and was quite successful. I urge you to take part in the legislative process to support this bill. 


 And, finally, I invite you to come to the Rio Arriba Food and Ag Policy Council's second annual winter event to be held February 22 & 23rd. On the 22nd we will be hosting a farm tour so please sign up to visit many of our local farms that are busy growing this winter. On the 23rd we plan to have an event at Northern New Mexico College in Española beginning at 8:30 a.m, with a little cafecito, atole, and conversation to be followed with a whole lot of information. We have scheduled speakers to come and share their expertise on ranching, viticulture, cold-frame production, freeze protection & apples, cooperatives, USDA funding, borrowing, and selling locally. For more information or to reserve a spot on the tour, please call or e-mail me: 

Margaret C. Campos at (505) 852-0017 or vemos!  

USDA Updates & Deadlines
Source: USDA News
Hispanic & Women Farmers and Ranchers Claims Process Meetings
USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA,) Rural Development (RD) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will host two public meetings where USDA program updates and the Hispanic and Women Farmers and Ranchers Claims Process will be discussed. The 180-day Hispanic and Women Farmers and Ranchers claims filing period opened September 24, 2012 and will close on March 25, 2013. 
February 14th at 9:00am
Historic Plaza Hotel
Las Vegas, NM
February 26th at 9:00am
NM Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum
Las Cruces, NM 
Hispanic and Women Farmers and Ranchers who farmed or attempted to farm between 1981 and 2000, who allege USDA discrimination when seeking USDA farm loan assistance are encouraged to attend this meeting. For more information regarding the scheduled meetings, please contact Veronica Tribbet, Communications Coordinator at 505-761-4900.

USDA Finalizes New Microloan Program

Microloans up to $35,000 aim to assist small farmers, veterans, and disadvantaged producers


Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced the new microloan program from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) designed to help small and family operations, beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers secure loans under $35,000. The new microloan program is aimed at bolstering the progress of producers through their start-up years by providing needed resources and helping to increase equity so that farmers may eventually graduate to commercial credit and expand their operations. The microloan program will also provide a less burdensome, more simplified application process in comparison to traditional farm loans.


"I have met several small and beginning farmers, returning veterans and disadvantaged producers interested in careers in farming who too often must rely on credit cards or personal loans with high interest rates to finance their start-up operations," said Vilsack. "By further expanding access to credit to those just starting to put down roots in farming, USDA continues to help grow a new generation of farmers, while ensuring the strength of an American agriculture sector that drives our economy, creates jobs, and provides the most secure and affordable food supply in the world."


The new microloans, said Vilsack, represent how USDA continues to make year-over-year gains in expanding credit opportunities for minority, socially-disadvantaged and young and beginning farmers and ranchers across the United States. The final rule establishing the microloan program will be published in the Jan. 17 issue of the Federal Register.


Administered through USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) Operating Loan Program, the new microloan program offers credit options and solutions to a variety of producers. FSA has a long history of providing agricultural credit to the nation's farmers and ranchers through its Operating Loan Program. In assessing its programs, FSA evaluated the needs of smaller farm operations and any unintended barriers to obtaining financing. For beginning farmers and ranchers, for instance, the new microloan program offers a simplified loan application process. In addition, for those who want to grow niche crops to sell directly to ethnic markets and farmers markets, the microloan program offers a path to obtain financing. For past FSA Rural Youth Loan recipients, the microloan program provides a bridge to successfully transition to larger-scale operations.


Since 2009, USDA has made a record amount of farm loans through FSA-more than 128,000 loans totaling nearly $18 billion. USDA has increased the number of loans to beginning farmers and ranchers from 11,000 loans in 2008 to 15,000 loans in 2011. More than 40 percent of USDA's farm loans now go to beginning farmers. In addition, USDA has increased its lending to socially-disadvantaged producers by nearly 50 percent since 2008.


Producers can apply for a maximum of $35,000 to pay for initial start-up expenses such as hoop houses to extend the growing season, essential tools, irrigation, delivery vehicles, and annual expenses such as seed, fertilizer, utilities, land rents, marketing, and distribution expenses. As their financing needs increase, applicants can apply for an operating loan up to the maximum amount of $300,000 or obtain financing from a commercial lender under FSA's Guaranteed Loan Program.


USDA farm loans can be used to purchase land, livestock, equipment, feed, seed, and supplies, or be to construct buildings or make farm improvements. Small farmers often rely on credit cards or personal loans, which carry high interest rates and have less flexible payment schedules, to finance their operations. Expanding access to credit, USDA's microloan will provide a simple and flexible loan process for small operations.


Producers interested in applying for a microloan may contact their localFarm Service Agency office.


The Obama Administration, with Agriculture Secretary Vilsack's leadership, has worked tirelessly to strengthen rural America, maintain a strong farm safety net, and create opportunities for America's farmers and ranchers. U.S. agriculture is currently experiencing one of its most productive periods in American history thanks to the productivity, resiliency, and resourcefulness of our producers.

Drought Assistance Available for NM Counties
Source: Congressman Ben Ray Lujan News Release

Congressman Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico's Third District highlighted efforts by the federal government to assist farmers and ranchers who have been negatively impacted by the severe drought in New Mexico and across much of the country.  U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack designated a number of counties across New Mexico as a primary natural disaster area due to recent drought, making all counties in the Third District eligible for assistance from the Farm Service Agency (FSA), including FSA emergency loans.


"Last year was the hottest year ever in the United States, leaving farmers and ranchers across New Mexico struggling in the face of devastating drought conditions.  We have also been impacted by a lack of rain and snowfall during the monsoon and winter months," Congressman Luján said.  "The disaster declarations by the Secretary of Agriculture will make important resources available to help farmers make ends meet during this difficult time.  It is also vital that Congress work toward a new farm bill, which reforms drought and crop insurance and helps farmers and ranchers better endure severe drought conditions."


Nineteen counties across New Mexico have been designated as primary natural disaster areas due to a recent drought, which covers counties where most of our acequias are concentrated including Rio Arriba, Santa Fe, Taos, Guadalupe, Mora,  and San Miguel. 


Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of the disaster declaration to apply for emergency loan assistance.  Emergency loan funds may be used to:

* Restore or replace essential property
* Pay all or part of production costs associated with the disaster year
* Pay essential family living expenses
* Reorganize the farming operation
* Refinance certain debts, excluding real estate


For more information on eligibility and how to apply for assistance, farmers should contact the New Mexico State Farm Service Agency at 505-761-4900.


Under a new USDA initiative, severe drought disasters are declared when any portion of a county meets the D2 (Drought-Severe) intensity for eight or more consecutive weeks or D3 (Drought-Extreme) or higher at any time during the growing season.  This new process has cut the average time it takes to turn around a disaster request from 85 days down to 29.

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Global Acequia Symposium


" Acequias and the Future of Resilience in Global Perspective"


March 2 & 3, 2013 

Convention Center  

Las Cruces, NM 



Project partners include NMSU, UNM, Sandia Laboratories, and the New Mexico Acequia Association

For more information contact NMAA at (505) 995-9644. 
Producers Forum 


"Celebrating Land-based Life Ways"

April 5th & 6th

TCEDC Business Park


This event is open to the public and is set to feature hands-on workshops, acequia governance workshop, horno building, community cooking with traditional foods.  MORE DETAILS TO COME SOON!


  Co-sponsored by the Taos County Economic Development Corp and the New Mexico Acequia Association
Ganados del Valle Annual Raffle 

Ganados del Valle is a nonprofit organization with a 30-year history of preserving communities, heritage, and environment in northern NM.


  $100 ticket -- win $1000
$50 ticket -- win $500
$25 ticket -- $250
$15 ticket -- $150
Proceeds from the benefit raffle will help strengthen conservation on the Ganados Ranch and supports farming efforts in 2013. 
Winners will be announced March 1st, 2013. Winners will be contacted by phone. For more info visit
Earth Day Workshop at 
Ghost Ranch  


"Water's for 

Cooperating Over"


 April 5th - April 7th
This program will examine historic instances in which societies have come together to share nature's most precious resource. Folklorist Jack Loeffler, Anthropologist Rina Swintzell, and Historian Estevan Arellano will present stories which highlight such social systems, explode the myth of water conflict and point toward a future with 'just enough' water for human and nature's uses. 
Click here for more info

Agriculture Census

Census forms will be mailed out in late December, and responses are due by February 4th, 2013

Producers also have the option to complete their forms
online. After all, the Census is your voice, your future and your responsibility. For more information about the Census see news release below. 

Raffle to Benefit Acequia

The Acequia Mesa del Medio, located in Coyote, NM is holding a raffle to help offset their costs surrounding a legal battle that will affect all acequias
Tickets: $50/each
Grand PrizeHonda Rancher ES 4×4 NaturalGearTM Camo 2012, Model TRX420FE12
Second Prize: $1000
Third Prize: $500
Drawing to be held immediately following the annual meeting of the Acequia Mesa del Medio on February 23, 2013, Coyote, New Mexico. Need Not be Present to Win. Winner of ATV is responsible for all applicable Taxes, Title, & License Fees. 

You can purchase tickets at the NMAA office in Santa Fe or mail a check to Acequia Mesa del Medio, P.O. Box 137 
Coyote, NM 87012

Technical Assistance 



The NMAA offers technical assistance on Acequia Governance and USDA programs for landowners. If any of these questions apply to you or your acequia, please submit a Request for Technical Assistance.

Become a Member!

Become a member of the New Mexico Acequia Association! Parciante and Supporter Memberships are $20/year and includes a quarterly newsletter subscription. Membership for an Acequia is $40/year including a newsletter subscription for all four officers.


The NMAA is a charitable, educational non-profit organization that relies on membership contributions and foundations for its general operating expenses. We rely on folks who join as members and to contribute membership dues and donations to support our work. It has never been more important to have a united front to protect our acequias and strengthen our food and agricultural traditions.


 New Mexico Acequia Association   

Concilio (Board of Directors)

Antonio Medina

Harold Trujillo

James Maestas

Jackie Powell

Gilbert Sandoval

Alfredo Montoya

Don Bustos

Facundo Valdez 

Stephen Trujillo

Medardo Sanchez

Yolanda Jaramillo




Paula Garcia, Executive Director


Julia Mullen, Associate Director 


Cheryl James, Program Director

Janice Varela, Acequia Governance Specialist


 Quita Ortiz, Communications & Project Specialist


Pilar Trujillo, Project Specialist


Lucille Trujillo, Membership Coordinator


Juliet Garcia-Gonzales, Community Project Coordinator


Alejandro Lopez, Project Coordinator


Kenny Salazar, Acequia Governance Specialist


Carlos Bustos,

Acequia Governance Staff


Patrick Staib, Farmer/Rancher Outreach Coordinator  


Jason Jaramillo, Farmer/Rancher Outreach Staff


Serafina Lombardi, Farmer/Rancher Outreach Staff


Allayne Scott, Business Manager


Lori Spillman, Event Coordinator 


Elena Misumi, Bookkeeper




Thank You!!!  

The New Mexico Acequia Association greatly acknowledges the support and dedication of the many parciantes and supporters who are NMAA members and who have made donations.


Thanks to our foundation supporters including (in alphabetical order) Catholic Campaign for Human Development, The Christensen Fund, Marguerite Casey Foundation, New Mexico Community Foundation, McCune Foundation, Panta Rhea Foundation, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.


We also greatly appreciate the financial support provided to us by state and federal sources: the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office of Advocacy and Outreach; and the State of New Mexico's Department of Finance Administration.