The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

Local News

February 27, 2014

Texas Agriculture Commissioner candidates discuss issues at forum

PALESTINE —

Two Republican candidates running for Texas Agriculture Commissioner in the March 4 primary elections shared their positions on current issues during an open forum held Tuesday at the Ben E. Keith Community Room. Citizens for the Constitution of Anderson County hosted the event.

Candidates Eric Opiela and Sid Miller answered questions submitted by audience members, posed by farm and ranch news writer Horace McQueen, who moderated the event.

Candidates were given one minute to introduce themselves, followed by questions and two-minute summations, respectively.

In order of discussion, Eric Opiela began by saying it was important for the next Texas Agriculture Commissioner to have a background in rural Texas and state agriculture – a background he possesses, as a fifth-generation Texas rancher.

But it’s also critically important that we have an agricultural commissioner who can get the job done when it comes to the critical issues facing Texas agriculture,” he said, such as “the availability and management of our water resources.”

I’ve dealt with some of the water issues that other farmers and ranchers across this state are facing. But I’ve also spent the last decade representing land owners in private property rights and water rights,” he said, “over 10 years experience representing land owners.

That office has to be a statewide leader on the very issue of making water more available but more importantly, managing that water better.”

Additionally, Opiela said the Texas Department of Agriculture needed to sort out expenses.

The agency has a budget of $590 million; we also spend 1.9 billion on our school lunch and breakfast programs and an additional half a billion dollars just on administrative overhead,” he said. “We need to reign in the administrative overhead at that agency, return those funds to local schools to provide more nutritious Texas-grown agricultural products to our kids, and manage this agency better.”

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