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Feds to reimburse New Mexico dairy farmers for chemical contamination from Air Force base

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Dairy farmers in New Mexico can seek reimbursement from the federal government for cows contaminated by chemicals that have leached into the groundwater around an Air Force base in the eastern part of that state.

A recent rule change by the U.S. Department of Agriculture has created a pathway for farmers to receive payments through the Dairy Indemnity Payment Program.

Previously, farmers were able to get payments for lost milk production but could not get paid for their cows.

New Mexico Senator Ben Ray Luján said in a statement that farmers and ranchers are critical contributors to the state’s economy and many producers have faced bankruptcy due because programs that were designed to provide a safety net were not working.

At one dairy, state officials estimate 5,200 cows were impacted by contamination and about 2,000 of the animals have died.

New Mexico sued the Air Force in 2019 for contamination at two bases. The state argued the federal government had a responsibility to clean up plumes of toxic chemicals left behind by past military firefighting activities.

The synthetic chemicals are used in products ranging from cookware to carpets and have been increasingly showing up in drinking water systems, wells and food.

They have been associated with health problems including cancer and reduced birth weight. They often are referred to as “forever chemicals” because they do not easily degrade and can remain in the body for years.

Last year, the EPA announced a new strategy to regulate them.