Meet Kelly Hancock: Ag advocated from ‘unexpected place’

State Sen. Kelly Hancock may be one of the busiest legislators in Austin, chairing or co-chairing three committees and serving on nine others. Those committees cover a wide spectrum of issues, impacting rural areas of the state as much as urban. TAD recently asked Sen. Hancock a few questions so our readers could get to know him:

As you prepare for your seventh legislative session, what keeps you motivated to continue to serve Texas as a member of the Legislature?

Staying motivated is easy when you recognize what a privilege it is to serve. I know the office in the Texas Capitol that has my name outside the door doesn’t belong to me, it belongs to the People of Texas and whoever they choose to occupy this position for a season. As long as I’m able to effectively represent the voters of Senate District 9 and the Lord leads, I’m honored to do it.

What is the biggest challenge facing Texas, and why? Has this changed since you were first elected to the Texas House?

Population growth comes to mind as both a challenge and a sign of progress for our state. Our job market is booming, with more than 350,000 new jobs added in the past year alone, and if Texas were its own country, we’d have the 10th largest economy in the world. These are facts that make the Lone Star State an extremely attractive place to live and work.

With new residents moving here in record-high numbers, we have to keep this growth rate in mind in every long-term planning and budget decision we make at the state level without burdening taxpayers by overspending. It’s a real balancing act, and that’s one reason why I’ve authored legislation to tighten the state spending cap by bringing it in line with population growth and inflation rates. We need to put permanent protections in place for future generations of Texas taxpayers.

While District 9 is not home to any dairy farms, it does include several milk processing plants. As chairman of the Senate Business & Commerce Committee, what role do you see agriculture playing, moving forward, in the economy of our state that’s becoming more urbanized?

As it stands, agriculture makes up more than 11 percent of Texas’ $16 billion-plus economy (GDP), which is roughly the same share as oil and gas production. This critical industry enhances our state’s core goal of having a competitive and diversified economy. Whether our population centers are urban or rural, people still need to eat, which means they need ag.

What is your advice to dairy farmers on how to keep urban legislators connected to our state’s agriculture industry? How can rural advocates be most effective at the Capitol?

It’s important for any industry to highlight what it does for Texas. Keep legislators informed about basic facts and figures like how much the industry contributes to our GDP, how much investment and reinvestment takes place every year, and how much of the industry is made up of small businesses.

I’m a sales guy who started a distribution business from scratch, so I would also add that it’s important to know your audience. For instance, even though our Fort Worth-area district is characterized as urban/suburban nowadays, I have family in ranching and my parents ran a feed store. There may be agriculture advocates in Austin who come from unexpected places.