By Melissa Hamilton, Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association executive director of government relations
While the upcoming election ballot will not determine our nation’s president or our state’s governor, there are still important items that will be up for a vote Nov. 7.
Texans will vote on 14 propositions, and of those, three have direct and far-reaching impacts on rural Texans, ranchers and landowners. It may seem that these initiatives are not important to those more distant from our rural parts of the state, but digging deeper, it is easy to see there are direct ties that matter to every Texans, no matter your zip code.
No proposition on the ballot more directly affects all Texans than Proposition 1, known as the Right to Farm initiative. Proposition 1 makes sure Texans both now and in the future have food, clothing, and shelter. It creates a constitutional right to engage in farming, ranching, timber production, horticulture and wildlife management for both landowners and lessees. In doing so, this proposition safeguards Texas agriculture from new and growing challenges.
Texas gains about a thousand new residents while losing about 650 acres of working agricultural land every day. That means that more Texans need to be fed, clothed, and sheltered, but there is less and less ability to do so. Agriculture matters to farmers, ranchers, and timber producers because it is their passion and their livelihood, but the food, clothing, and shelter that results from their hard work directly impacts every Texan. Whenever you eat a meal, get dressed for work, or go to sleep at night in your house, you have benefited from agriculture. That food came from farmers and ranchers. The clothing came from farmers, and that shelter came from timber production. In short, all of us need agriculture to live.
Agriculture also provides other benefits for us all. Agriculture keeps our economy strong, and our taxes low. Texas produces $25 billion in gross receipts of agricultural goods each year, contributing to our strong economy in the state. Farms and ranches provide environmental benefits, too. Open space ensures we can capture rainfall and replenish our aquifers and fresh water sources. These operations also provide habitat for wildlife, supporting thousands of species around the state. Many of these animals have lost their habitats due to increasing urbanization. Without agricultural land to live on, these species would have a difficult time surviving in Texas and some would be extinct.
The facts are clear. Texans need agriculture, and agriculture needs Proposition 1.
All Texans need to support Proposition 6. Proposition 6 creates the Texas Water Fund and New Water Supply Fund to assist in financing water projects. The funds will repair aging and leaking pipes, as well as finance new projects needed to meet the increasing demand for clean water in our growing state. Proposition 6 ensures our state has clean water and an infrastructure capable of efficiently delivering that clean water, both now and in the future.
Last, but not least, Proposition 8 on the ballot is vital to Texas. In today’s world, access to highspeed Broadband is no longer a luxury for Texans, it is a necessity. Unfortunately, many in our state, especially in the rural parts of the state, do not have access to this technology. That means millions of Texans lack a resource necessary for their health, like access to telemedicine. These Texans are also at a disadvantage in their work and education, as both jobs and schools move to more and more online projects and programs. Proposition 8 steps in to fill this void by creating a Broadband Infrastructure Fund to finance high-speed Broadband and other connectivity projects wherever they are needed in the state.
Proposition 8 must pass to secure the dollars necessary to provide reliable access to broadband service to all Texans, including those who ranch and steward land in the rural parts of the state. Proposition 8 also makes sure Texas does not fall behind other states in terms of connectivity technology and access to that technology.
As we near Nov. 7, remember what is at stake. Please encourage friends and family to join you at the polls to support the future of rural Texas. Vote “yes” on Propositions 1, 6 and 8.