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TDA: COVID-19 only strengthens our resolve to serve farmers, agriculture 

By Sid Miller, Texas Agriculture Commissioner

As our nation suffers through this historic and deadly coronavirus pandemic, everyone is coming to terms with an unfortunate new reality. Millions of Americans have lost their jobs or are forced to work from home, often while adding the duties of educating their children and isolating themselves to protect their health. Businesses and industries are shuttered due to social distancing, quarantines and shelter-in-place orders. Markets for Texas agriculture products shifted or disappeared overnight.

Yet Americas farmers, especially our dairy farmers, understand one thing very well. Even in times of crisis, natural disaster or economic downturn, theres one demand that never ceases:  the need for food. People must eat, no matter what. Therefore, to provide the food and fiber we all need, farms and ranches have remained open for business – as do all the organizations and services that support them – including the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA).

Created in 1907, the Texas Department of Agricultures mission is to regulate, serve and promote the Texas agriculture industry as well as protect Texas consumers. From inspecting eggs and grain warehouses to regulating organic milk certifications and opening overseas markets for Texas ag products, TDA is here for Texas farmers and ranchers. We protect consumers by ensuring accuracy of scales, price verification and food safety inspections. We also are responsible for implementing the federal school lunch and school breakfast programs here in Texas. As Texas Agriculture Commissioner, it’s my duty to oversee six million meals a day for Texas schoolchildren.

But just like you, thanks to COVID-19, TDA also has had to learn new ways of doing business. Id like to outline just a few ways that weve responded to this emergency so we can continue our mission of serving you.

First, the safety of our staff and Texas farmers and ranchers is of utmost importance. To maintain social distancing guidelines, I honored the requests of some ag producers to cancel or reschedule in-person inspections due to the concerns around COVID-19.

I put out an industry wide essential business letter to make sure that all entities understood the need for workers, product and transportation to continue for the milk industry and all of agriculture. To reinforce this, I signed an Essential Critical Infrastructure Worker Authorization letter and posted it in both English and Spanish on our website for farmers and ranchers to use if necessary.

I’ve also directed my staff across Texas to pitch in to help their local communities by delivering supplies like hand sanitizer and medical equipment to rural hospitals and local businesses whenever possible.

These are just a few of the examples of how the Texas Department of Agriculture is adapting to this new normal, just like you. We take our mission of serving Texas agriculture and protecting consumers very seriously and were not about to let this pandemic keep us from getting the job done.

As your Texas Agriculture Commissioner, I want to say thank you to all the Texas dairy farmers, ranchers, small business leaders and industry partners who continue to work from sunrise to sunset to keep our ag industry strong.

With patience and prayer, we will make it through this crisis. Because were Texans. We’ve had our share of dust storms, tornados, hurricanes and war, and weve withstood the test. We will again. When we get back to business, it will be with that Texas swagger and a big Texas handshake. This virus might push us down. But we wont be down for long. And when we get up, everyone will understand why the Lone Star State is like no other place on earth.

Here at the Texas Department of Agriculture, well make sure that everyone understands exactly why Texas Agriculture Matters!