DOE Says No Prime Farmland Surrounding LANL

May 2, 2008

The Department of Energy (DOE) reported in its proposal to expand the manufacturing of plutonium pit "triggers" for nuclear warheads at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) that "there are no agricultural activities present at LANL, nor are there any prime farmlands in the vicinity." DOE made the statement in the draft Complex Transformation Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, which has been out for public review and comment.

There are three sites in New Mexico that are key to the proposal. These are LANL, Sandia National Laboratories and the White Sands Missile Range.

For DOE, the "vicinity" or "region of influence" is generally the area within a 50-mile radius of its facility. Unfortunately, DOE draws the circle from the center of the facility, and not from the boundary.

DOE used the definition of "prime farmland" found in the 1981 Farmland Protection Act. The Act defines "prime farmland" as "land that has the best combination of physical and chemical characteristics for producing food, feed, fiber, forage, oil seed, and other agricultural crops with minimum inputs of fuel, fertilizer, pesticides, and labor, without intolerable soil erosion."

On its face, the DOE claim that there are no prime farmlands in the vicinity of LANL is false and misleading. Before the Atomic Energy Commission arrived on the Pajarito Plateau in 1943, the land was prime farmland.

Further, a few pages after the no agricultural activities declaration, DOE explains that the Pueblo of San Ildefonso lies immediately east of LANL's border and that "land use is a mixture of residential use, gardening and farming, cattle grazing, hunting, fishing, food and medicinal plant gathering, and firewood production, along with general cultural and resource preservation."

Many are challenging the claim. They are demanding that DOE retract the Transformation Complex proposal and conduct the proper analysis of the impacts of nuclear weapons manufacturing on the agricultural activities in the communities surrounding the three key sites in New Mexico.

For example, the New Mexico Farmers' Marketing Association has compiled data about the total sales at farmers' markets throughout New Mexico. Sales have increased from an estimated $1.4 million in 1998 to almost $3.2 million in 2005.

Sarah Grant, with the New Mexico Farmers' Marketing Association, wrote in comments to DOE that, "The farmers markets in Santa Fe, Espanola, Los Alamos, [Pojoaque], Eldorado and Taos all host vendors who farm within a 50 mile radius of LANL. The total revenues of these markets combined is in the vicinity of $2.5 million. This is a significant amount that impacts the lives of the farmers and the consumers they serve. The DOE claim that there are no prime farmlands in the vicinity of LANL is wrong. It is accurate to say that LANL is located within a food basket of Northern New Mexico."

Ted Wyka, the DOE Document Manager for the Transformation Complex proposal, said that public comments were due April 30, but that DOE will continue to accept them.


Fax: (703) 931-9222


Mr. Theodore Wyka
Complex Transformation SPEIS Document Manager
Office of Transformation, NA-10.1
U.S. Department of Energy/NNSA
1000 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20585

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