LUBBOCK, Texas — The South Plains are at the center of a contentious election for the Agriculture Commissioner of Texas.
Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller is running for his third term overseeing the $6 billion state agency as a candidate twice endorsed by Donald Trump, and he is leaning into his record of weathering Trump-era trade wars to bring Texas crops to the rest of the world.
“I soon found that we were missing out in the global economy, so I launched a global outreach initiative,” Miller said. “We were in every continent on the globe marketing Texas agricultural products in the first year I took office.”
Miller referred to the department’s “GO TEXAN” program, which markets Texas products in international markets. During his term as Commissioner, the department has embarked on trade missions in Cuba, Ecuador, Argentina, Israel, and China.
Miller stressed that while he wants to open Texas crops to the world, he wants to close Texas land to certain parts of the world. He said his top priority in a third term will be blocking Chinese nationals from buying Texas land.
“People are really upset that we allow our enemies like China to buy our farmland,” he said. “It gives them access to our food supply, to our electric grid. I’m on a mission to get the Texas Legislature to prohibit that. It’s just not smart.”
Chinese investors bought more than a hundred thousand acres of Texas land including a plot for a wind farm in Southwest Texas near Laughlin Air Force Base. The legislature blocked that arrangement in a 2021 legislation that4810 cr 3300 banned companies controlled by China, Iran, Russia, and North Korea from connecting to the Texas power grid.
Miller’s challenger Susan Hays says another kind of outside influence has already tainted his office.
“I’m running for Agriculture Commissioner because I’m sick of the corruption in the leadership of this state,” Hays said while on a campaign stop with Beto O’Rourke.
She was referring to a scandal that called Miller’s ethics into question earlier this year. One of Miller’s former political consultants was indicted in January on felony theft and commercial bribery charges. He is accused of selling hemp licenses for up to $150,000. The state charges $100.
“To see someone so openly try to scam someone like that with [their] boss in the other room knowing damn well what was going on was a huge motivator for me to run against him and try to bring some honor and ethics back to this office,” Hays said. Miller denies any wrongdoing on his part.
Hays said she wants to take a broader approach to the position that focuses not just on the health of the agricultural economy but on the health of its farmers and ranchers.
“Another huge reason I wanted to run for this office is because the State Office of Rural Health and rural economic development are housed in the ‘AG’ commission, but you wouldn’t know it because they are rotting in the basement,” she said.
Hays told Talking Points she intends to focus on rural healthcare after the closing of numerous rural hospitals due to inadequate budgets.
“The problem with Sid Miller is no one trusts him. The legislature has no faith in him, they don’t want to give him any more money,” she claimed. “And with the federal government, even during the Trump administration, I was surprised to see how little pull he had. He couldn’t get anything done.”
One area where both candidates largely agree, though, is on cannabis. While Miller stops short of wanting to fully legalize the plant, both are strong advocates for expanding medical cannabis.
“We’re going to ask [the legislature] to have full medical cannabis and get …. elected officials out of prescribing treatment and let doctors make that decision,” he said. “We have the science now. We know exactly what illnesses it can help.”
“I helped draft and pass the law that legalized hemp in Texas,” Hays said on that campaign stop. “I want to lead the way on helping Beto O’Rourke and Mike Collier draft the best cannabis legalization law in the country.”
Early voting in this race and all other statewide seats begins Oct. 24 and runs through Nov. 4. Election Day is Nov. 8.