Sunday, March 02, 2003
By Marvin Tessneer
Sun-News report er
Looking back on his service as New Mexico Department of Agriculture director and State Agriculture Secretary, Frank A. DuBois said he has been privileged to be in a position where he could do so much good for so many people.
Thursday, DuBois announced that he is retiring from the department as of June 1, after 15 years of leadership.
"Whoever is in this position has a great opportunity to represent agricultural interests," DuBois said. "As a cabinet member, he can sit at the table with other state agencies, state legislators and U.S. delegation and discuss agricultural interests.
"I've been able to deal with state and federal agencies mostly on issues relating to agriculture, water rights and property rights."
During that time he worked successfully with three governors -- Garrey Carruthers, Bruce King and Gary Johnson.
"Frank DuBois is one of the state's true visionaries and most valuable public servants, and he put his heart into improving the plight of those in agriculture," said Mike White, president of the New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau. "New Mexico and agriculture are much better off because of the hard work, vision and leadership provided by Frank.
"Advances made at the NMDA with DuBois at the helm included putting the state's unique food products on the national and international market. From the State Fair to trade with Mexico, Secretary DuBois was able to bring many diverse groups together in order to advance the causes of the agricultural community," White said.
A recent example of his work is the Public Land Grazing Task Force that former Gov. Johnson had him organize last year to learn if the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service are fulfilling their obligations to ranchers who have grazing permits with these federal agencies.
The task force conducted hearings in Silver City, Española and Alamogordo, taking testimony about how cattlemen feel about their dealings with the agencies. All the ranchers' testimony is on record now, and agencies and legislators who make decisions on grazing matters have access to it, DuBois said.
The summation stated, "Permittees have indicated their mistrust of the BLM and FS. Damaged trust and continued suspicion of FS and BLM personnel has resulted from poor or inconsistent communication patterns and a lack of effort to cooperate and coordinate with permittees."
Specific complaints were that federal agencies have ignored the custom and culture of livestock grazing and its importance to local economy and communities; as a result of the Endangered Species Act, stream areas have been fenced off to exclude cattle; often, agency personnel just drive through an allotment and then issue decisions to remove livestock, and agencies frequently fail to notify permittees that their ranges are being monitored.
"This is the type of thing I'm happy to participate in, an example of what this office can accomplish," DuBois said.
Phil H. Bidegain, president of the New Mexico Cattle Growers' Association, said DuBois' leadership has allowed the New Mexico cattle industry to survive in tough times.
"The fact that agriculture continues to be one of New Mexico's largest industries despite several years of drought as well as the pressures of a global economy and federal over-regulation is a testament to the abilities of Frank DuBois," Bidegain said. "As secretary of agriculture, Frank has worked tirelessly to protect virtually every segment of the industry, from crop production to livestock, and even egg production.
"His wealth of knowledge on federal land issues has been critical to continued use of more than half the state. He has created a strong marketing program in not only New Mexico but nationally and internationally, and he has been a firm but effective force in achieving regulatory compliance voluntarily rather than punitively."
When DuBois took over the department, it was operating at a deficit. He reorganized the operation for more efficiency and eliminated three divisions -- the Santa Fe office, climatology and forest entomology, he said.
"We've never had a budget deficiency in the department during the 15 years I ran it," DuBois said. "I've been able to provide service to agriculture and enforce state laws and stay within the financial means given to us."
Ted Boersma, president of Dairy Producers of New Mexico, said DuBois was able to strike a balance in enforcing the state regulations
"Frank's philosophy of seeking compliance before enforcement has been beneficial in developing a good relationship between the industries the NMDA regulates and the department," Boersma said. "Secretary DuBois has made a strong and valuable contribution to agriculture in New Mexico."
For 13 of his 15 years as department director, DuBois provided that service while confined to a wheelchair with multiple sclerosis.
"And I couldn't have accomplished what I've done without the help of the great employees at the New Mexico Department of Agriculture," he emphasized.
He also said his accomplishments would have been impossible "... without the support of my wife, my partner, my soul mate, Sharon; my son, Frank; and my daughter, Sevon, who have always been very supportive."
The New Mexico State University Board of Regents named DuBois the NMDA director in 1988. Before that, he worked as a department field inspector, agricultural policy specialist and assistant director with the late William Stephens for four years.
"New Mexico agriculture owes a huge debt to Frank DuBois for the hours he's put in and sacrifices he had made on our behalf," said Tom Runyan, president, New Mexico Wool Growers. "Frank is a great asset to us all and has worked hard to keep us all in business with the changing issues we are facing."
Anyone who talks with DuBois is soon caught up in his enthusiasm for the DuBois Rodeo Scholarship for NMSU student "rodeo athletes."
A ranch boy and former rodeo competitor, DuBois has questioned for years why NMSU, with it size, curriculum and tradition, had never offered scholarships to rodeo athletes. Smaller institutions like Eastern New Mexico University, Mesa Lands Community College and Hobbs New Mexico Junior College all give these students full scholarships.
"So, instead of just griping about it, I decided to do something about it," DuBois said.
He launched his rodeo athlete fund-raising campaign in the fall of 2000.
"So far I've been able to get 18 students, boys and girls, full scholarship -- 13 this spring," DuBois said. "During the last legislative session, I lobbied to get money appropriated to hire a full-time rodeo coach at NMSU. I've also been lobbying during this legislature session to get additional money for practice stock for the students."
In August 2002, NMSU hired Jim Dewey Brown as full-time rodeo coach.
The year after DuBois got his scholarship going, six NMSU rodeo athletes qualified for the Collegiate National Finals Rodeo, a strong statement supporting his efforts.
A former ranch boy and rodeo competitor, DuBois knows what rodeo competition is all about.
He comes from Corona, in Lincoln County. The town was established on a site that had been patented by DuBois' great-grandfather, also Frank DuBois.
The Southern Pacific Railway named the town Corona, "crown" in Spanish, because it was the highest station on its route from Chicago to Los Angeles, DuBois said.
The DuBois family ranch was too small, 16 sections, to divide among all children, so DuBois' father moved to Albuquerque, where he worked as a factory security guard and machinist.
DuBois attended high school in Albuquerque. He graduated from NMSU in 1973 with a bachelor's degree in agriculture and extension education and earned his masters in 1987.
But, as the saying goes, "you can take the boy off the ranch, but you can't take the ranch out of the boy." And DuBois spent his summers working on the family ranch. The ranch is now owned by his aunt, Geraldine Perkins.
Through working cattle on the ranch, DuBois soon developed skills needed for rodeo competition -- calf roping and steer wrestling. But it was not until he was 40 that he achieved his greatest rodeo success, as a header in team roping.
The header ropes the steer around the horns and keeps it off balance while the heeler gets a loop around the rear legs, which requires a great deal of coordination.
"After I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1990, I won four saddles, seven belt buckles and a hay barn as a header roper," DuBois said. "I also wanted to demonstrate that you can be a champion team roper and run a state agency even though you have a chronic disease."
He had to give up team roping competition in 1998 because of health conditions.
But his enthusiasm for rodeo and cattle is still strong.
Behind his desk is large painting of a cowboy moving a bunch of longhorn cattle. He also has a sculpture of a cowboy throwing a loop round a calf running alongside its cow mother. The sculpture is a Cattleman of the Year Award that had been presented to him by the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association.
And one of his proudest rodeo accomplishments was putting together the 60th year reunion of the first Aggie rodeo team last March. Five surviving members from that 1942 team attended the reunion at the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum.
The idea for the team reunion, DuBois wants everyone to know, came from team member Giles Lee of Lovington.
"I don't know how New Mexico could have had a better secretary of agriculture,
and especially the livestock industry," said Mike Casabonne, president
of the New Mexico Public Lands Council. "The council thanks Frank DuBois
and his family for all they have given us and wish them well in the future."
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