Grayson County voters were given an opportunity to meet Kim Olson, a Democrat, running for Texas Commissioner of Agriculture, on Wednesday at a lunch meeting held at Lupe's, a restaurant in downtown Sherman.
Olson is currently traveling the state in an effort to visit every county as part of her campaign to unseat Sid Miller, the current Texas ag commissioner, who was elected in 2014.
Miller was endorsed, in a tweet, by President Donald Trump, who called Miller “Trump's man in Texas.” Miller also has experience having served in the State Legislature, as well as the office Olson hopes to fill. Olson's previous political office is a seat on the Weatherford ISD school board. However, Olson said she wasn't particularly phased by Trump's endorsement.
“I don't think Texas men or women need anyone else's man in Texas,” Olson said.
Olson pointed out her campaign is focused on providing relief to farmers hurt by the president's “trade war” by opening up new markets for Texas producers. She told a story about how she met a rice farmer who asked her why the U.S. doesn't sell more rice to Cuba.
“Right now, they (Cubans) are buying all their rice from Taiwan and we're sending all of our rice to Vietnam, how dumb is that?” she said.
Olson said with Cuba being 90 miles away, it makes sense to open those markets. Especially, she said, considering how the trade war is causing current trade partners to go elsewhere for some products.
Olson mentioned one of the bad things about a trade war is how easy it would be for someone else to replace the U.S. as a leader in global agriculture production.
“Brazil and Argentina can beat us to the punch with places in Asia, which are big importers of our goods,” Olson said. “Mexico could turn further south for their products if we turn them away.”
She said she wasn't opposed to reforming NAFTA, but not in a way that hurts farmers.
“What makes us a powerhouse as a country is our ability to grow our own food,” Olson said. “A lot of other countries don't have that.”
She also talked about how farmers don't have time to go down to Austin to go before the legislature. They need someone to fight for them that gets it. That's where she said she will step in.
Olson mentioned how she knows agriculture because she is a farmer and a fighter. She served in the U.S. Air Force from 1979 to 2005. She mentioned how she wants to make part of her message how important agriculture is to everyone, not just the rural farmers.
Olson has been visiting mostly ranchers and farmers. She has also been going into urban areas to explain to city dwellers how agriculture affects their daily lives. She said farmers are not the most powerful people in the agriculture economy. Olson said that power belongs to consumers.
“Ag isn't a red issue or a blue issue, it is a red, white and blue issue,” Olson said.
She said Texas has a larger economy right now than Russia and agriculture is a major component in that economy. Part of her plan is to establish herself as a respected agriculture worker when she gets into office.
“I don't have fingernails because they get dirt in them from working my land all the time,” Olson said. “The point is you want that representation in Austin working for you.”
She is also aiming to take on obesity and diabetes in Texas schools. She said her job isn't to tell people what to eat but to give them the information to make those decisions. Olson said the Department of Agriculture is responsible for developing policies for school lunches.