The cattle industry is an intrinsic piece of New Mexico’s history and culture and a vital component of our state’s economy. Spanish explorers brought a small herd of cattle to the upper Rio Grande nearly 500 years ago, and today New Mexico is home to more than 1.6 million head of beef and dairy cattle. Together, they are our state’s most profitable agricultural products.

The coronavirus has impacted nearly all industries and sectors worldwide, and New Mexico’s cattle industry is no exception. As we complied with public health orders, our eating habits changed. Typically, 49 percent of food products are consumed in the home and 51 percent is sold to food services such as restaurants and schools. With restaurants and schools closed, demand plummeted.

New York and the East Coast are the primary markets for New Mexico’s cheese and dairy industry, and virtually overnight, milk didn’t have a home.

The beef industry took the next blow. Meat-processing plants shut down due to virus outbreaks among workers, stressing the supply chain and making it impossible for ranchers to market their cattle. In fact, processing is expected to be backed up until March 2021.

Fortunately, there is a lifeline that could come in the form of a bilateral trade agreement with Taiwan.

On Aug. 28, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen announced she will lift restrictions on the importation of U.S. beef more than 30 months old. This is good news for New Mexico’s economic interests.

Taiwan-U.S. relations are at their strongest level in decades. Taiwan is the United States’ ninth-largest trading partner and seventh-largest agriculture export market. Taiwan is also one of New Mexico’s most important investors.

In 2018, Taiwanese manufacturer Admiral Cable committed to investing $50 million in a manufacturing facility in Santa Teresa that will soon be operational and is expected to employ more than 250 people. Other deals involving Taiwanese investment in New Mexico have been brought forward and negotiations are underway.

A trade agreement between Taiwan and the U.S. would make economic, strategic and political sense. Deepening trade between Taiwan counters China’s efforts to isolate Taiwan economically and would be meaningful from the perspective of supply chain security in the post-coronavirus world. As a trusted and reliable partner of the U.S., a Taiwan-U.S. trade agreement would further ensure products ranging from semiconductors to cattle flow directly between our countries.

China claims Taiwan as part of its territory, although the Chinese Communist Party has never governed the island. Nevertheless, before a trade agreement can be signed, the U.S. will have to recognize Taiwan’s solvency. The U.S. and Taiwan must also agree to call a tariff truce.

Cattle producers have suffered massive economic damage as a result of the coronavirus. A bilateral trade agreement with Taiwan is an exciting opportunity for the U.S. beef industry to expand its reach overseas and level the playing field. I encourage our congressional leaders to embrace an agreement that would benefit both countries and save rural America.

State Sen. Pat Woods is a Republican from Broadview.

(1) comment

Dan Frazier

Cattle ranching has no place in New Mexico, where water is scarce, and cattle require a lot of water to grow. The USGS says it takes 460 gallons to make 1/4 pound of beef. USGS explains, "Estimates vary a lot due to different conditions of raising cows. The number also varies depending on how far back in the production chain you go. It takes a lot of water to grow grain, forage, and roughage to feed a cow. Water is also needed for drinking supplies as well as for servicing the cow. Per kilogram of product, animal products generally have a larger water footprint than crop products."

Furthermore, methane emissions from cattle is a major contributor to global warming. A CNN article from July 15 notes that "Methane is 28 times more effective than carbon dioxide at trapping heat over 100 years..." The article also says that, " ...cattle ranching is the main reason for increased methane levels."

Senator Woods is apparently advocating live-shipments of cattle to Taiwan. These voyages are brutally difficult for cattle, which are caged in close quarters on the decks and holds of large ships. Occasionally, these ships even sink, as happened just a week or so ago off the coast of Japan, when a ship with 6,000 cattle aboard went down in a storm.

Let the record also show that Senator Woods' official photographs invariably show him wearing a cowboy hat and that Ballotpedia lists his professional experience as just one thing: "His professional experience includes working as a rancher."

With all due respect sir, cowboys from the boonies should not be telling us what's best for New Mexico in a 21st century world grappling with one climate-change induced calamity after another.

Welcome to the discussion.

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