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The Daily Times takes a look at Navajo Agricultural Products Industry's Great New Mexico Chile Taste Off award winning Navajo Pride Green Chiles. Sam Ribakoff, Farmington Daily Times

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FARMINGTON — The Navajo Nation is leasing approximately 7,000 acres of land to the Navajo Agricultural Products Industry for its existing farming operations located south of here.

Although NAPI was established as a tribal enterprise in 1970, it has been lacking a lease for the land it has developed to grow crops such as alfalfa, corn, potatoes and beans. The current size of the farm is 72,114 acres.

That lapse was noted in a 2017 resolution by the NAPI Board of Directors that authorized NAPI management to apply for a master agricultural lease from the Navajo Nation.

NAPI Board Chairman Peter Deswood III explained the enterprise is securing the master lease in five phases, and the process to secure the first phase started several years ago.

Deswood said the master lease is needed to take NAPI into a direction where it will benefit the Four Corners area, and it gives the enterprise the ability to develop its own land lease agreements with contractors.

The first phase covers about 7,000 acres located within the Upper Fruitland, Nenahnezad and San Juan chapters. The lease was part of a bill that was approved by the Navajo Nation Council's Resources and Development Committee on Sept. 18.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez finalized the agreement on Nov. 19 when he signed the documents during a board meeting at NAPI headquarters, according to a press release from his office.

"The master lease process took years to develop and went through a lengthy review process before reaching this point today," Nez said in the release.

NAPI CEO Dave Zeller had no comment on Nov. 19 about the leasing approval.

In a statement, NAPI explained that it will start the second phase when the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation provide property research for Huerfano Chapter.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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