U.S. Rep. Tom Udall, left, and Wayne Palla discuss issues dealing with dairies in eastern New Mexico Tuesday during a visit to Palla’s dairy north of Clovis. CNJ photo by Eric Kluth.
By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent
Congressman Tom Udall got a crash course on the dairy industry Tuesday, eastern New Mexico style, in a tour that took the U.S. representative to a dairy and the construction site of a cheese plant.
Udall, D-N.M., began his day by visiting Wayne Palla’s dairy in northern Curry County and was shown the whole scope of the milk-making process, from the silage feed for the cows to the delivery trucks designed for keeping the finished product between 36 and 40 degrees on a cross-country trip.
“We just wanted to show him a working dairy and what’s involved in the operations,” said Palla, chairman of the Southwest Council of Dairy Farmers of America. “I think it was definitely worthwhile. They were real appreciative of getting the chance for a working knowledge on how things work together.”
After a tour of the main Palla facility, which included full-grown milking cows as well as recently born calves, Udall’s group was taken to two more sites where adolescent cows were being raised.
“The overall tour was to educate myself a little more about the issues that are facing the dairy industry,” Udall said. “There’s nothing like kicking the tires and being out on the operation to see what is going on.”
Udall was in Boston last week for the Democratic National Convention. He spent Monday night in Clovis before taking the dairy tour.
“I was asking (Palla) specifically about the problems he was running into. I was really interested in the regulation — who does it and are they doing a good job?” Udall said. “It seems like there’s a lack of coordination between the federal government and the state government on the regulation of the industry.
“You never want to have a situation where regulators are fighting for turf. Sometimes, you get that, where you’ve got two regulators who are seeing different things. They should be on the same page and it should be a science-based regulation where we’re taking care of the environment, but we’re not putting burdens on that shouldn’t be there.”
City and chamber of commerce officials later accompanied Udall for a visit to the Southwest Cheese Plant site south of Clovis.
Twelve silver silos, of the projected total of 38, stood out as the group drove around the site after being briefed on the plant by CEO Maurice Keane.
“From Clovis’ point of view, it’s an ideal business. All of the product is made locally and the finished product is sold nationally,” Keane told Udall.
There are more than 60 dairies in Roosevelt and Curry counties.
Keane was referring to the presence of local dairies and the milk they’ll provide to make American cheese, whey protein concentrate and whey protein isolate that will be shipped to the four corners of North America.
Keane also told the congressman that a truckload of cheese would be produced every hour when the factory, which will employee 225 people, is operating at full capacity.
“I know the congressman has stayed closely involved with the project, so he has been aware of it, but I think he couldn’t but be impressed by the scale of a project such as this — basically out in the middle of the countryside some months ago,” Keane said after the tour.