BIG COUNTRY, Texas (BIGCOUNTRYHOMEPAGE) – On this week’s edition of Big Country Politics, News Director Manny Diaz spoke with Texas Agricultural Commissioner Sid Miller about challenges facing agriculture and the legalization of medical marijuana in Texas. Miller is an eight-generation farmer and rancher who won his third term in office last November.

“We’re enjoying the highest cattle prices we’ve ever had during a drought and usually, were listed liquidating catalysts having to sell off because of the drought. Usually, when that happens, proceeds just go into summer; they just tumble. But now we still have extremely high cattle prices. What that tells me for the future, even after the drought breaks, and we start rebuilding our numbers, there’s going to be a shortage of cattle, so the price is probably going to be high,” Miller shared. “Now, the bad end of that is we’re in a drought; we don’t have any hay or feed to carry over from last winter. We fed it all up. Most of us didn’t make enough hay to get us through this winter. So we’re having to purchase hay; it’s quite expensive because you have to add freight and mileage to that. The prices have never really come down. They got extraordinarily high last winter. So we’ve still been extraordinarily high prices for feed.”

Miller has spoken to many producers throughout the Big Country and the State of Texas. He shared that the most significant dilemma he has heard is from the federal government.

“Well, the biggest problem we face in agriculture, unfortunately, is an overreaching federal government… They just took our antibiotics away from us. We can no longer buy antibiotics to treat our sick animals over the counter. Now, we have to go to town to get a prescription and get an appointment with a veterinarian; it just takes time. Meanwhile, the animals remain sick,” Miller explained. “We’ve got an overreaching federal government trying to put the Waters of the US back on us. I sued the Biden administration and got an injunction to stop the Waters of the US. If you don’t know what that is, it’s far overreach from the Environmental Protection Agency. It makes it very difficult to farm or produce oil and gas in this state. So we just got one thing after next, after next, after next. We’re fighting an open border here in Texas, and we’ve had over six million illegal aliens come into our state since the Biden administration has been in office.”

Miller also shared how the State of Texas Agriculture Relief (STAR) Fund is helping those across Texas and in the Big Country.

“That’s something that I’ve started there. It’s the Department of Agriculture. We do not use taxpayer dollars. This is not a taxpayer-funded program. We go out, I do, and others helped me raise money from the private sector, individuals, corporations, even nonprofits, organizations, and professional organizations, and we use that money to put back 100% of that we don’t hold out any admin fee, but we put 100% of that back in the farmer to get them back up on their feet after a natural disaster. Like right now, we’re going through a lot of fires. And with that comes a lot of loss of fences. Those aren’t really covered during property damage; Certainly not covered with crop insurance. So those all have to be paid for out of pocket. So we will partner with that farmer in our STAR fund, and we’ll pay up to half the cost of the materials to get that back. We don’t have enough money to pay the whole thing, but we will go out and buy The fencing material, the wire, the posts, etc. Get us a receipt, and we’ll write them a check for 50% of that. So it’s not everything, but it certainly helps. If you’re looking at several mops of fence,” Miller shared.

He added that right now, this is extremely helpful as the state of Texas has faced severe weather over the past couple of years.

“It’s not just wildfires. It’s floods. We have a lot of Texas subject to hurricanes, freezes, you know, we had a lot of damage during the freeze in February of ’21. Tornado damage, there’s, you know, we have a lot of… if you live in Texas, you’re subject to a lot of perils,” Miller said.

Miller plans to host a summit in Irving this September, focusing on strategies and policies to counter the Biden administration’s impact on private property rights.

“What that is if your listeners don’t know, and a lot of people don’t know. They’re not tuned in, but this is bad for our country as an open border, in my opinion. So, the first executive order that Joe Biden issued during his first week in office, he launched the 30 by 30 plan. And what that stands for is to idle 30% of our land in the United States by the year 2030. So that is an amount of land; it’s 150 million acres larger than the Louisiana Purchase. A third of our land is a lot. So, take it completely out of production. That means no farming, no oil and gas, no logging, no recreation, no anything,” Miller explained.

He added that there are things that are in motion to reverse some of these things in favor of Texans.

“Well, this spring, we hosted the Western Legislative Caucus. Now, that’s the second largest caucus in the United States Congress, hosted in the stockyards. GT Thompson, who was chairman of the Agriculture Committee in the United States House, was there… and we addressed this issue. And we are now writing the new farm bill. We’re in the process of that. So we’re trying to put things in the farm bill that would prevent the Biden administration from carrying out his 30 by 30 plan. We’ve got to stop, and he’s devastated agriculture, devastating to the timber industry, devastating to the oil and gas industry,” Miller shared.

Miller and others have tried to get President Biden and his staff to visit Texas but to no avail.

“We’ve never got a response of any kind, either good, good or bad. But they’re always welcome. I’ll be glad to set up a tour of the Texas border. Love to take Kamala Harris or Joe Biden. They’ve never really seen the border that I know. I was a lawmaker before I had this occupation. I was chairman of Homeland Security and public safety so my mission from the governor then was to secure the Texas border so I can show you the real border if anybody wants to come,” said Miller.

The 2019 state bill that legalized hemp in Texas had high expectations for farmers, but Miller said many are switching to a fiber product for various reasons.

“We started out growing hemp for CBD oil. Typical farmers saw a lot of profit in doing that. So we planted.. we have too much hemp than we need. So, the price is plummeting. The pivot is going to fiber. We’re switching from an oil product to a fiber product, and that’s the long-term place for hemp, and in my opinion, it fits traditional farming much better. It’s not as labor intensive. One farmer can grow a whole pivot of fiber hemp harvested just like we do, put it on a truck, and send it to the mail. What they do is they make fiber out of it, and not CBD. All that fiber has turned into over 2,000 products. They can be hempcrete building blocks; it can be rope, canvas, car interiors. The list goes on and on and on,” Miller shared.

During last year’s election, Miller was interested in expanding the legalization of medical marijuana, something he believes should be up to the doctor and patient.

“What it is, and let me explain, my opponent was for full-fledged recreational use of marijuana. I’m not for that. But I am for medical use for compassionate use for anything. We have so much good science now. And we know what diseases it can treat, yet our legislature picks winners [and] losers. If you’ve got this disease, you can get treated, if you got this disease, and cannabis will help if you can’t get treated. So we need to get out of that business. We need to let the doctor-patient relationship let those doctors make those medical decisions and not some bureaucrat or some politician. That’s my position, and hopefully, they expand it a little bit each time; it gets better and better. But we still don’t have full-on use of medical cannabis,” Miller explained.

He added that he believes medical marijuana will become legal in Texas, with each legislative session drawing it closer.

“If you can get it to the floor, probably 70% or 80% of the legislative body will vote in favor of it because we have such good science on it. Now, it’s not speculation anymore. When we started with speculation, we thought, ‘Well, that’ll lead to recreational use or more drug use,’ but it’s not. It’s a plant derivative. Look. Medical marijuana is not nearly as addictive as some of the prescription drugs we use now. Hydrocodone, Oxycontin, Fentanyl, you know, all these narcotics that we prescribe. This is a plant-based drug that relieves pain and suffering, and we need… if it’ll help somebody and getting them help,” Miller shared.