‘Welcome to ‘Texas Agriculture Matters,’ AKA the ‘Sid Miller Show,’ where, as Sid puts it, ‘You will learn about hooves, hide, hair, horns and everything in between.’ Today Sid focuses on ‘Roadkill – is it overrated compared to the South Beach Diet?’”
Let me see that TV guide again. Wow. There really is such a program on cable channel RFD-TV targeting rural Americans, set to premiere on Jan. 21. And who is Sid Miller? He’s the Texas Agriculture Commissioner, a Republican. Of course, some of our fellow Republicans would vote for Edward Teach if he had an R by his name on the ballot. (Teach was better known as Blackbeard the Pirate.)
The TV program will be “a fun and informative look at the role agriculture plays in daily lives,” and will feature Miller, who will not be paid for his participation, exploring Texas in weekly episodes. The show will be recorded in Fort Worth and might reach 52 million viewers nationwide. Good for Sid. The ag biz is a major industry in the Lone Star State — $110 billion annually. Not to bog down in stats, but here’s a few we need to know:
Texas leads the nation in the number of farms and ranches, with 248,416 covering 127 million acres. Of 408,506 producers in Texas, only 37 percent are women, but that number increased 69 percent from 2012.
For 36 percent of producers in Texas, farming is their primary occupation. This means we have a lot of gentlemen farmers — corporate lawyers and oral surgeons — who spend their weekends digging septic lines and de-worming cows. Locals call them “the mink and manure set.”
The average farm in Texas is 411 acres. That doesn’t seem very big, and the number decreased by 12 acres from 2012. Many former farms are now Wood Wood or West Conroe.
The average age of Texas farmers and ranchers is 59 years. That’s old. How ya gonna keep them down on the farm after they’ve seen East Sixth Street?
One of every seven working Texans (14 percent) is in an agriculture-related job, but does that include waiters?
A lot of farmers are receiving federal government subsidies checks, and my favorite is Prince Hans Adam, crown prince of Liechtenstein, net worth $4.4 billion. In 1986, Prince Hans was a partner in a Texas farm larger than his own principality — and collected subsidies of $2.2 million, the largest support payment to any farm in Texas that year. This isn’t exactly “American Gothic.”
There are 46 Texas colleges that offer various degrees in agriculture. (You can earn an associate degree in agriculture at that agrarian outpost: Houston Community College.) According to experts in that field, so to speak, the best agriculture programs in Texas are offered by Texas A&M University at College Station. Aggies can grow moss on a rolling stone, but have trouble growing touchdowns on AstroTurf.
Let’s come back to Sid Miller. From 2001 to 2013, he served in the Texas House. He reversed a ban on soft drinks and fried foods in public schools, but was unseated. In 2014, he was elected Ag Commissioner. A month after taking office, Miller competed in a rodeo in Jackson, Miss., and charged the trip to Texas taxpayers. When it all came to light, he repaid the state. The Texas Rangers launched a criminal investigation into the Mississippi trip and another February 2015 jaunt to Oklahoma, where Miller received a controversial injection known as “the Jesus Shot.” Prosecutors didn’t press charges after determining that “criminal intent would be difficult to prove.” But he was slapped with a $500 fine from the Texas Ethics Commission.
Finally, I have a few suggestions for that TV show. The official state horse of Texas is the American Quarter Horse. What happens to the other three-quarters? Will Arabian horses be deported? A program on the collapse of the Christmas tree industry as people turn to artificial trees, no tree at all or make them from coat hangers. Interview the Dallas Cowboys to see if they really are cowboys: can they ride a mechanical bull? Then interview the bull. A spot on how to milk cows, goats and Texas taxpayers. If a former military person becomes a cadet at Texas A&M, would he be a Corps vet? Or if he was a graduate of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine, could he (or she) be a vet vet? And what’s a Jesus shot?