Other Voices

Talking Texas agriculture on Capitol Hill

Business owner Juanita Harrison, left, and employee Lee Hampton pour freshly caught shrimp near Baytown.
Business owner Juanita Harrison, left, and employee Lee Hampton pour freshly caught shrimp near Baytown. AP

When people ask what I see as the greatest threat to Texas agriculture, my answer is simple — a heavy-handed federal government that hinders the growth of the industry and our entire economy.

The men and women who work the land to provide our food and fiber deserve a seat at the table in Washington, D.C.

That’s why I recently visited our nation’s capital to provide a voice for hardworking agricultural producers against overreaching, bureaucratic policies.

One issue I shared in my meetings was the struggle Texas shrimpers are facing with foreign, farm-raised shrimp entering the U.S., much of which is pumped full of antibiotics and steroids and produced using questionable labor practices.

The Food and Drug Administration only inspects 2 percent of imported shrimp.

Most makes it into our grocery stores, forcing out higher-quality, wild-caught Gulf shrimp.

This issue is not unlike one faced by the U.S. catfish industry recently.

It took eight years to fix a quirk in federal law to require the U.S. Department of Agriculture to inspect imported farm-raised catfish.

While this was a major step forward, our shrimpers cannot wait nearly a decade.

These mom-and-pop operations are struggling daily to compete with an inferior, imported product. That is unacceptable.

We all agree food safety is crucial. To protect the well-being of American families and our economy, we need to be smart about regulations.

I’m hopeful we have begun working toward leveling the playing field for shrimpers so we can all have access to healthy, quality Gulf shrimp and protect this important segment of Texas’ agriculture industry.

Another topic was the Environmental Protection Agency’s Waters of the United States rule, an illegal attempt to expand federal regulation of waters on private lands.

WOTUS threatens property rights, individual freedom and economic growth, and the Government Accountability Office found that EPA acted illegally by using a propaganda-like social media campaign to further its activist agenda.

The Texas Department of Agriculture is at the forefront of this fight with a lawsuit against EPA.

I’m confident the courts will rule that WOTUS cannot stand.

WOTUS is not the only attack on private property rights. Landowners along the Red River know this all too well, as they fight the Bureau of Land Management’s attempt to seize their land without survey.

Much of this property has remained in families for generations, but antiquated laws have opened the door for BLM bureaucrats to attempt a land grab.

This land is private property, period.

Owning land is one of our most cherished and valued rights as Americans, and it is crucial to growing the food and fiber that sustains us.

Agriculture is essential to our national security and prosperity.

While the federal government can lose sight of its impact on Texas agricultural producers, I’m proud to say the work we do at TDA helps sustain our farmers and ranchers.

As we begin 2016, I look forward to another great year for Texas agriculture — hopefully one with far less federal overreach.

Sid Miller is Texas Agriculture Commissioner and a lifelong farmer, rancher and small business owner.