Committee tables Pumpkin Patch bill

The Daily Times staff
Pumpkin Patch Fundraisers field worker Terrence Tesethlikai works with his crew during the harvest on Sept. 28 at a Navajo Agricultural Products Industry farm site south of Farmington.

FARMINGTON — The Resources and Development Committee tabled a bill that proposes the tribe lease land to a pair of non-tribal companies that grow pumpkins and popping corn at Navajo Agricultural Products Industry.

Under the proposal, the tribe would lease 12,766 acres of farm land to Pumpkin Patch Fundraisers Inc. and its sister company, Upland Desert Popcorn LLC.

Pumpkin Patch Fundraisers has leased land from NAPI for more than 20 years and the current contract between the entities expired last December. NAPI had declined to renew the lease for a number of reasons, including what it says are unpaid bills. The company disputes those claims.

Delegate Alton Joe Shepherd, who serves as committee chairman, said today the committee voted 5-0 in favor of tabling the legislation for two weeks in order to allow NAPI and Pumpkin Patch Fundraisers to work out the issue.

The bill had gone to the six-member committee on Tuesday at a meeting in Tsé Bonito.

If a compromise is not reached by that time, the legislation will return to the committee for action, Shepherd said.

He added that a committee member, along with Delegate Leonard Tsosie, who is sponsoring the bill, may offer mediation between the tribal enterprise and the companies during the meetings.