Walter Bradley is the former lieutenant governor of New Mexico. The Clovis native is back in town, handling government and business relations with Dairy Farmers of America, the largest dairy co-op in the United States. DFA members produce about 57 billion pounds of milk per year, which is 33 percent of the nation’s output, according to Hoovers.com, a Web site that publishes business information.
Q: What are your primary responsibilities with DFA? Do you go to lawmakers and try to push the agenda of Dairy Farmers of America?
A: I go to the legislative sessions, not necessarily pushing their agenda, but to look out for harmful legislation. We are not asking for much, but just leave us alone. That’s the dangerous thing about New Mexico. After eight years as lieutenant governor and four as a (state) senator, I can tell you the dangerous thing is someone always wants to get a piece of you.
Q: Through taxes?
A: Through taxes, through regulations. We don’t want the state of New Mexico to be more stringent than the federal law. We don’t have a problem with abiding (with regulations), but you can have overkill, and that’s historically what happens in New Mexico.
Q: What is your agricultural background?
A: My family owned a farm here in Curry County many years ago. But the last 15 years has been in the political arena.
Q: Do you have contacts in the political arena today that you keep up to facilitate your role at the DFA?
A: Absolutely. When you are a lieutenant governor or governor, you are in a very small arena. There’s only a maximum of 50 of you (in the country). So what happens is you get into this network nationwide for political activity, and you never leave it. You are always plugged in.
If I have something that I don’t really know where to go, I call our contact in Washington and he can direct me to the right people. In the state of New Mexico, I know the agency heads and the political people.
Q: Can you give us an example from your day-to-day job, something you do for DFA in your liaison capacity?
A: We are going to work on some road projects for the local dairies around here. We are looking for some money for the whey plant going in next to the cheese plant, so we assist … getting some of that (money). I spend a lot of time between here and Albuquerque and Santa Fe working on those regulatory processes, those questions dairymen come up with that no one else has been able to handle. Plus, just getting the good news about the dairy industry.
Q: What does the Southwest cheese plant mean for the dairies in this area?
A: It’s huge. I’m not sure people understand what DFA is and what their role is with the (Southwest) cheese plant and various other things. This is America’s largest cheese plant. DFA is the second-largest investor in that cheese plant behind Glanbia. The reality is, most likely it wouldn’t have come in if DFA hadn’t come in with their money. We brought this cheese plant on for one reason: We need a place at a lower hauling distance.
Q: Do you have any figures on the economic impact of wet and cold weather on the local dairies?
A: The average dairy cow in this area produces about 70 pounds of milk per day. The wet weather dropped that production down to about 60 pounds. The average dairy in Curry County is about 2,500 head. (For a dairy that size) it’s over a $100,000 per month negative impact. It’s big. You’ve got 23 dairies in Curry County and 45 in Roosevelt. You are talking about a $6.8 million negative impact per month due to that bad weather (for Curry and Roosevelt counties).
Q: Do you think there are any weaknesses in the DFA that need to be addressed?
A: Yes I do. The biggest problem that DFA has, is we haven’t told people outside of our area what is going on in this industry. You have to go in and educate people at the Legislature. If we’re not educating Albuquerque and Santa Fe and urban Las Cruces about our issues, then they don’t pay much attention to us anymore. We need to be talking about this economic impact that is going on in (eastern) New Mexico, because it is huge, and it benefits the whole state. These dairies are over here are paying taxes. So that is revenue to the state.
Q: Do you have any plans to get back into politics?
A: I’m really enjoying what I’m doing right now. However, I would never say never. It depends on what the horizon brings and what comes up.
— Compiled by CNJ Staff Writer David Irvin