Tribpedia: Department Of Agriculture

The Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) is the state agency charged with overseeing agricultural business and collecting statistics on crops and livestock. The agency was established by the Texas Legislature in 1907.

TDA is based in Austin, Texas and has five regional offices, four satellite offices, seven laboratories and six livestock export facilities.

The commissioner of agriculture, who is elected ...

New Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller does a fist pump on election night Nov. 4, 2014.
New Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller does a fist pump on election night Nov. 4, 2014.

Miller Defends Deep Fryers in Agriculture Address

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller defended his new nutrition policy Wednesday, praising his department's decision to "abolish outdated and unneeded state mandates" and allow schools to install deep fryers and soda machines if they wish.

 

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller on Jan. 13, 2015.
Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller on Jan. 13, 2015.

Heated Debate Surrounds Push for Deep Fryers in Schools

Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, the cowboy-hat-wearing champion of local control, is looking to buck a decade-old statewide ban on deep fat fryers in public schools. Putting decision-making back into the hands of Texas school districts, he says, “isn't about french fries, it's about freedom.”

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller gives away cupcakes at a press conference on Jan. 12, 2015.
Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller gives away cupcakes at a press conference on Jan. 12, 2015.

Despite Rocky Start, Agriculture Chief Defends Record

A collection of unflattering headlines has lawmakers and one of Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller's predecessors questioning whether the world-champion calf roper was fully ready to steer a billion-dollar state agency. But Miller is brushing off the criticism, touting his first 100 days as a wild success. 

 

Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller at Texas Republican Convention in Fort Worth, June 5th, 2014.
Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller at Texas Republican Convention in Fort Worth, June 5th, 2014.

Sid Miller Backed, Then Nixed, Ag Agency Remodel

Hand-scraped wood floors. Custom ceiling tile. A shower. Those items may not sound like upgrades a cash-strapped agency would need, and new Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller ultimately didn't think so, either. After initially supporting a big renovation at the agency, Miller decided to nix it, officials say.

New Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller does a fist pump on election night Nov. 4, 2014.
New Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller does a fist pump on election night Nov. 4, 2014.

Sid Miller Clashes With Legislature Over Budget

Recent episodes — including a parking kerfuffle and a request to leave the House floor — highlight a rapidly deteriorating relationship between the cowboy hat-wearing agriculture commissioner and the Legislature that once counted Sid Miller as one of its own. 

Sid Miller at The Texas Tribune Festival on Sept. 20, 2014.
Sid Miller at The Texas Tribune Festival on Sept. 20, 2014.

Fiscal Hawk Sid Miller on His Need for Cash

Sid Miller voted for deep budget cuts as a member of the Texas House. But now he’s Texas agriculture commissioner, and he wants the Legislature to dramatically increase funding to his cash-strapped agency, which he says has been doing a lousy job protecting consumers. The Texas Tribune sat down with Miller last week.

Rick Perry in 1991 at Uncle Ben's rice offices in Houston to promote his Make It Texas initiative. The program was designed to promote the agricultural processing industry with loan guarantees, but a high failure rate sank the program and triggered a $14.7 million bailout in 2009.
Rick Perry in 1991 at Uncle Ben's rice offices in Houston to promote his Make It Texas initiative. The program was designed to promote the agricultural processing industry with loan guarantees, but a high failure rate sank the program and triggered a $14.7 million bailout in 2009.

Perry's Embrace of Tax Subsidies Could Haunt '16 Bid

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry has been promoting tax subsidies for private businesses since the early 1990s. But the programs have rarely lived up to their promise, and a series of damning audits could hurt his expected 2016 presidential run.

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller gives away cupcakes at a press conference on Jan. 12, 2015.
Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller gives away cupcakes at a press conference on Jan. 12, 2015.

Commissioner Gets Cupcake Policy Wrong, Combs Says

When Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller announced on Monday that his first official act was to grant amnesty to cupcakes, he said he wanted to make sure Texans knew that state rules that once banned such treats from classrooms were repealed last summer. But cupcakes have actually been allowed at school birthday parties in Texas for a decade.

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller declares cupcake amnesty at a press conference on Jan. 12, 2015.
Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller declares cupcake amnesty at a press conference on Jan. 12, 2015.

Agriculture Commissioner Grants Amnesty to Cupcakes

In his first official act as Agricultural Commissioner, Sid Miller granted full amnesty to cupcakes. Miller was seeking to reassure Texas parents that it's legal to bring cupcakes and other treats to school — and that he'll protect that right. It's about local control, he said.

 

A field of corn in the Texas Panhandle
A field of corn in the Texas Panhandle

Texas Sees Significant Decline in Rural Land

Texas is losing more farm, ranch and forest land than any other state, according to recent data. That has implications for water resources, which scientists say are better retained by undeveloped land. The data, from the Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources, also shows that land is becoming more expensive. Use these maps to see the changes for individual counties.

Farmers in the community of Mumford worry that if Union Pacific Railroad acquires the rest of the land it needs to build a new rail yard in the area, the familiar landscape of cotton fields off of FM 50 in the fertile Brazos River Valley will change forever.
Farmers in the community of Mumford worry that if Union Pacific Railroad acquires the rest of the land it needs to build a new rail yard in the area, the familiar landscape of cotton fields off of FM 50 in the fertile Brazos River Valley will change forever.

Farmers Ask Officials to Stop Rail Yard

Residents in a small Texas community are fighting against the potential construction of a rail yard on farmland with nutrient-rich soil. The residents have run out of legal maneuvers, and are now pleading with lawmakers for help.

Ongoing Drought Pushes Beef Prices to Record Levels

As Texas enters its fourth year of record-setting drought, ranchers, along with economic and agriculture experts, are concerned that increasing food prices — especially for beef products — could take a toll on American dinner tables. Beef prices are higher than they've been in nearly 30 years.

 

Kinky Friedman is shown at his Medina, Texas, ranch.
Kinky Friedman is shown at his Medina, Texas, ranch.

Analysis: A Kink in the Democrats' Chain

Texas Democratic leaders tried to keep Kinky Friedman off of their November ticket, for fear voters will not take him seriously. But if he wins a runoff for agriculture commissioner in May, he might offer them their best odds for a win. The Republicans are choosing between two former legislators who were voted out of office, and neither is as well-known as the Kinkster.

Cloud Seeding Advocates Look to Build Momentum

As dry conditions persist throughout Texas, policymakers have talked about projects like building new reservoirs and desalination plants and drinking recycled wastewater. Some scientists and water planners want to add "weather modification" to that list. This story was produced in partnership with KUT News. 

School children at Cantu Elementary in San Juan, Texas, eat their free breakfast, Wednesday April 24, 2013.
School children at Cantu Elementary in San Juan, Texas, eat their free breakfast, Wednesday April 24, 2013.

Ag Candidates Weigh In on School Lunch Program

One of the Texas agriculture commissioner's biggest jobs is running the federally funded school breakfast and lunch program. Read what the Republican and Democratic candidates for agriculture commissioner have to say about the program.