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Texas Ag Commissioner Talks 'Fresh Fried Foods' And Increased Fees

Ryan E. Poppe
Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller speaking with Texas Tribune's Evan Smith

The sometimes controversial, always candid Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller is just over a year into his first term as a state-elected official.  In an interview with the Texas Tribune’s Evan Smith, Miller discusses his efforts to increase fees and allow schools to serve deep-fried foods again.  

Generally seen with his iconic white cowboy hat, Republican Commissioner Sid Miller has, in his own words, “shaken things up” at the Texas Agriculture Commission.  He started his term in 2015 with an announcement that he would be raising licensing and equipment fees for Texas farmers.  It’s a move that Miller told Smith was absolutely necessary.


“The agency, previously had two funding sources; the fees we collect and general revenue.  The legislature, because times were tough, took away the general revenue and said you’re going to have to recover all your cost," Miller said.


In 2011, as a state representative, Miller voted to cut the agency’s budget and make its primary source of revenue dependent on fees and fines; two major sources of revenue that Miller said were left undone for many years.


“The problem is those fees were never raised.  When I got there we had an $18-million deficit, we had over a hundred vacancies," Miller explained.


Miller also defended allowing public school lunch rooms to begin once again serving deep fried foods and having soda machines in the cafeteria.


“We’re seeing more kids in Texas now, our numbers are just now coming in where they are returning and starting to eat in the lunchroom again because the food’s good again.  So it’s working and we’re making a difference," Miller said.


At the same time, Miller says he’s encouraging schools districts to work with local farmers and ranchers to acquire locally-sourced pesticide-free produce and meats.

Ryan started his radio career in 2002 working for Austin’s News Radio KLBJ-AM as a show producer for the station's organic gardening shows. This slowly evolved into a role as the morning show producer and later as the group’s executive producer.