NM Ag Secretary on PFAS

Laura Paskus

September 8, 2021

Recently, New Mexico Department of Agriculture Secretary Jeff Witte spoke about the military’s contamination of groundwater in New Mexico—and specifically, about how PFAS contamination from firefighting foams used for decades at Cannon Air Force Base have affected Highland Dairy owner Art Schaap, who says he has been dumping milk since 2018, when the U.S. Air Force notified him it had contaminated the water that supplies his home, dairy, and employee housing.

Schaap now says his biggest problem has to do with disposal of cow carcasses, as the herd ages and dies off, and he has appealed to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for help.

NMPBS reached out to the USDA, whose spokesperson said no one is available for an interview, and who stopped responding to follow up emails requesting information as to whether the federal agency is in conversation with Schaap, state officials, or New Mexico’s federal delegation.

According to Witte, the federal agency has told the New Mexico Department of Agriculture they’re revising their rule on the dairy indemnity payment program.

That program compensates dairy producers when they’ve been required to remove their milk from market due to contamination. A change could allow the agency to compensate producers for the cows, not just the milk.

If you’re interested in hearing what the U.S. Air Force has to say about PFAS contamination from Cannon, there’s a quarterly meeting on September 15 at 5 p.m. via Zoom.

If you’ve been affected by PFAS contamination in your community here in New Mexico, call our tip line at (505) 433-7242. To read more coverage of PFAS in New Mexico visit “Groundwater War: New Mexico’s Toxic Threat,” which includes a timeline of events and studies on PFAS.