Meet Four Price: Veteran legislator takes lead on state issues, without losing focus on his rural district
Representing Texas dairy farmers at the top of the Texas Panhandle, Rep. Four Price (R-Amarillo) understands issues that impact his largely rural district, including the dairy industry, and why they are important to the state as a whole. TAD recently asked Rep. Price a few questions so our readers could get to know him:
As you prepare to serve a fifth term in the Texas House of Representatives, what keeps you motivated to continue to serve?
My motivation has remained the same since day one, and it is straightforward – do the very best to improve the lives of the constituents whom I have the privilege of representing and advocating for at the Texas Capitol.
This encompasses many things. For instance, during a legislative session, it may mean one minute trying to pass my bill improving access to healthcare services in rural areas, and then, later that same day, working to defeat a bill that would unnecessarily overregulate farmers or ranchers or the small business down the street.
When not in session, this could mean helping a constituent navigate a state agency or resolve a regulatory issue. For instance, speaking with the local TxDOT office regarding road construction and then communicating back to the constituent whose neighborhood may be adversely impacted during the construction. Another example is working with constituents in crafting legislation to solve a local or state issue.
What is the biggest challenge facing Texas, and why? Has this changed since you were first elected to the House?
The biggest challenge is how fast we are growing as a state in population. Thus, meeting growing infrastructure demands continues to be the main challenge from when I first was sworn-in to the present day. However, it is certainly better to grow than to be stagnant or, worse, in decline. Just ask any of the rust belt states or northeastern states how they like their declining population or influence on the national stage. These states and many other states would gladly trade places with Texas.
While keeping up with the infrastructure demands – public education, transportation, water, etc. – generated by a growing Texas population is not an easy task, we have met them head-on. For example, I was proud to joint author the historic water legislation known as House Bill 4 (83R), which reorganized the Texas Water Development Board and led to the creation of the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT). This fund provides very low interest loans to local entities in building sustainable water supplies.
Clearly, more ongoing work remains, such as investing in public education. This ongoing need is clearly illustrated by existing data. From the 2006-07 school year to the 2016-17 school year, enrollment in Texas public schools increased by 764,185 students, or by 16.6 percent, to a total 5,359,127 students.
Likewise, agriculture must continue to grow as our population does the same. This means we as lawmakers, and especially those of us who represent rural areas, must continue to stand for common-sense agricultural policies so that our farmers and ranchers can meet the increasing food and fiber demands of our growing Texas population.
As Chairman of the Public Health committee, what do you think is the biggest healthcare issue facing rural Texans?
Access to healthcare professionals is a big issue facing rural Texans. Fortunately, we are making advances on several fronts. Technology has helped us bring medical services to rural Texas in a way that was not possible not too long ago. This also required changes in state law to allow greater use of telemedicine. I was proud to author and sponsor such bills into law last session and look forward to continuing to advocate for greater access to care.
Also, we must ensure that we, as a state, develop more young people into future healthcare professionals. For rural areas that means we must ‘grow’ our own locally. Recently, my staff and I facilitated extensive discussions with local school districts and a regional university on how that might best be accomplished. Exciting things like that are happening. In my region and community, we all pull together. As in many rural areas, that represents the local spirit.
Your district is now home to a large number of dairies. As the dairy industry has grown over the years, what impacts have you seen in the Texas Panhandle?
It is quite amazing that the High Plains of Texas is now the leader in milk production in Texas. I have not found many people who do not like wholesome, pasteurized milk products. What would Tex-Mex be without queso, or vanilla wafers be without a cold glass of milk?
As with any primary agricultural activity, there is a multiplier or ripple effect on the local and state economies in the support of many other agriculture-related jobs. What I try to remind persons residing in urban areas is that agriculture is economic development. I can point to a cheese plant in Dalhart and its recent expansion or the $700 million plus expansion of the urea manufacturing plant in Borger.
The dairy industry, and agriculture in general, are huge economic drivers in your district. What actions do you think the Texas Legislature needs to take to preserve and grow agriculture, in order to feed our state and beyond?
It is vastly important that the Texas Legislature remembers the importance of agriculture not only to our state, but also to our country. Texas supplies food for many people across our nation and abroad. Agricultural science and research are also an integral part of improving the efficiency of agriculture. Therefore, in order for this to continue, and to feed our growing population, it is crucial that we always remember the Texas farmer and rancher when crafting legislation.
We also need to better educate urban residents that the best conservationists are those in agriculture. One fact that bears that out: more than 4,500 farms and ranches in Texas have been maintained in continuous agricultural operation by the same family for 100 years or more.
Also, those in agriculture must reach out to young people, especially in urban areas where some have never eaten meat on a bone or think that milk comes from the cooler. Southwest Dairy Farmers is doing its part in this education effort through its Mobile Dairy Classroom. My legislative staff recently attended a Texas Farm Bureau field day and enjoyed interacting with TAD’s Darren Turley as well as seeing a firsthand demonstration of the Mobile Dairy Classroom.
State Rep. Four Price
State Representative Four Price, a fourth generation Texan from Amarillo, is serving in his fourth term in the Texas House of Representatives where he has the privilege of advocating for constituents residing in five Texas Panhandle counties – Carson, Hutchinson, Moore, Potter and Sherman. Price is a graduate of Tascosa High School, the University of Texas at Austin and Saint Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio. He and his wife, Karen, live in Amarillo, are the proud parents of four adult children – two of whom are currently attending college – and are active members of a local Amarillo church.