What TDA Does
The Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) is about more than cattle and cotton. The agency has a budget of $700 million a year and about 700 employees statewide. The vast majority of the budget comes from federal funds largely to fund school lunches and Meals on Wheels which comprise more than 80% of the TDA budget and helps urban and rural Texas alike. Those funds support not only purchasing and providing food to children and the food insecure whether elderly people or people with disabilities but also nutrition education.
About 10% of the budget goes to rural economic development programs with a measly $4.4 million a year — or 0.6% — toward supporting rural hospitals and healthcare. The State Office of Rural Health (SORH) is housed at TDA and oversees grants utilizing federal dollars to support rural healthcare. The SORH works with the federal Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility Program to encourage cooperative care in rural areas through Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs), EMS providers, clinics, and health care practitioners.
TDA also protects consumers and agricultural producers by regulating pesticides, monitoring plant health and seed quality, and ensuring weights and measures are accurate. (That is, except for gas pumps. The Legislature took that program away from TDA in 2019 to punish Sid Miller for trying to turn gas pumps into campaign ads.)
The Ag Commissioner also promotes Texas agricultural products and trade with other countries. Cattle, cotton, and chickens make up more than 70% of what Texas ag produces in dollar terms. But other products such as grains, fruits and vegetables, and specialty crops like wine grapes and hemp deserve promotion as well. The Agriculture Commissioner should be identifying new markets and business opportunities then connecting producers to those opportunities. Finally, the Ag Commission runs the Texas Hemp Program.