Commentary: Texas legislators need to hear from farmers, ranchers, rural Texans

The 88th regular session of the Texas Legislature convened this week in Austin. As I heard jokingly before from many when I served in the Texas House of Representatives, the circus has come to town!

But in all seriousness, the Texas Legislature only meets for 140 days every other year, so it is vital that Texans let their elected representatives know what is important to them and why these problems or issues matter. This is especially true for our agricultural community and those who depend on it for a living.

Any regular Texan hoping for help can face tough odds. While approximately 9,999 legislative bills were filed in the 2021 regular legislative session, only 3,803 became Texas law. At least 1,600 registered lobbyists will descend upon the 181 members of the Legislature, clamoring for attention, often elbowing normal folks out of the way. And that doesn’t count the part-time unregistered lobbyists and issue volunteers who will be pounding the halls of your Capitol. Those halls can get a bit crowded.

But most legislators want to come back for next session and the 2024 primary elections are less than 14 months away. Taxpayers and voters have their own way to influence the legislative process – it’s called the ballot box, and believe me, every state legislator understands that fact.

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Folks in rural Texas are outnumbered these days like never before. Rural Texas makes up roughly 11% of the Texas population. It’s important that farmers, ranchers, and those who depend on us talk directly to their elected officials. Don’t use middlemen. Let them hear from you – and more than once if necessary.

For agriculture the stakes could not be higher. Last summer’s drought was a sharp reminder that we need a concrete water plan for Texas for the long term. As Texas energy policy is formulated and the Texas electric grid evolves, our $20.2 billion agriculture economy must have a seat at that table. Small farmers and ranchers who find that cities are encroaching upon their land must have their right to farm protected.

And the ownership of Texas farm and ranch land must not fall into the hands of Red China. Whether it be for a cattle ranch or a crop farm, the Texas Legislature must ban this in 2023. Texas must also end China’s backdoor attempt to tap into our electric grid through so-called solar farms.

So in the next 140 days don’t be afraid to call, write, email or even go see your legislator at the state Capitol in Austin. Frankly, many of them may be relieved to see a real person.

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Remember, just as I do, that these elected officials work for you. Most want to do the right thing but sometimes the noise level gets a bit much when the Legislative process really heats up.

So, as I always say, “Texas Agriculture Matters” and in 2023 that has never been truer. Get involved, Your Legislature needs to hear from you over the next 140 days.