House District 85 Rep. Stan Kitzman of Waller County, the Republican who now represents Wharton County, received his legislative assignments that are befitting of a representative of a rural area.
Kitzman was named to the agriculture and livestock, the natural resources, and the resolution calendars committees on Feb. 8. His district, which was redrawn during redistricting last year, also includes Austin, Colorado, Fayette, Waller and a portion of Fort Bend counties.
Given that agriculture is a leading industry in those counties, Kitzman’s appointment to the agriculture and livestock committee is perhaps the most influential of the three. A former county commissioner in Waller County, the first-time Texas House member will spend time on the committee that has jurisdiction over many issues pertaining to rural areas.
While most of the bills for farmers come at the federal level, Kitzman said he expects the agriculture and livestock committee to look at what farmers are dealing with locally to see if they have a suitable environment to stay in business.
“Less than 2% of the U.S. population is involved in the production of agriculture,” Kitzman said. “If we put those people out of business, we don’t grow our own food anymore.”
Former Rep. Phil Stephenson, who Kitzman defeated in a runoff last May, was not a member of the agriculture and livestock committee in the last legislative session.
Corrie Bowen, Wharton County’s Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Agent, said he’s happy that his county will be represented in the agriculture and livestock committee. In his role as a county extension agent, Bowen encourages and educates farmers on the best management practices for natural resources.
He noted that agriculture is the number one economic industry for Wharton County. According to the agricultural receipts collected by Texas A&M AgriLife in 2021, agriculture in Wharton County contributed to 8,130 jobs. With its representative in the House agriculture and livestock committee, Bowen ideally thinks that the county’s farming needs will be seriously considered during this legislative session.
“We have a system where our needs and voices can be heard,” Bowen said. “It doesn’t always go the way we want it to go, but I feel like we have a system and associations in place to have our voices heard.”
Bowen said for a farmer to begin working in the agriculture industry, they must take a financial risk when purchasing expensive equipment. While second generation farmers can likely inherit the machinery from their predecessors, starting from scratch takes a toll on the beginner’s pockets.
Kitzman concurred, saying that while his concern is to ensure that farmers can stay in the business of the production of agriculture, getting new people into the industry is a bigger challenge.
Kitzman said the state needs to discuss ways of making it easier for upstart farmers to get their business going.
“I think that’s a huge issue that perhaps the rest of the country isn’t paying attention to,” Kitzman said. “Maybe the agriculture committee in the Texas House of Representatives can do that.”
With Wharton County being ranked second in the state for the sale of crops, nursery, sod and hay, according to Texas A&M AgriLife, ensuring that there are farmers to sustain the industry is something Kitzman said he believes is vital.
Farmland is also becoming harder to come by. Much of the acres previously designated toward agriculture is being repurposed into businesses and energy production. Most farmers lease their land already. For example, Texas A&M AgriLife states that Wharton County has lost 20,000 acres to solar energy production in the last two years alone.