Day 5 of our tour started with the drive from College Station to the capital city of Austin. We headed to the Capitol, taking in the architecture and city sights. We also learned a few fun facts about the Capitol building, such as it is taller than the US Capitol building!
Our first speaker was Christi Craddick, Chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission. Although the Texas Railroad Commission started in the 1920’s regulating the Texan railroads, today the agency regulates the oil and natural gas industry, in addition to coal and uranium mines.
Chairman Craddick shared further information on the oil and gas industries with us, and also provided her insights on leadership. She is the only statewide elected woman in Texas (other than judges), and is instrumental in mentoring other women and encouraging them to take on leadership and political roles.
Next we heard from Jennifer Rabb and Joaquin Guadorrama from the Budget Office of the Texas Lt. Governor. They shared with us that Texas is open for business with a strong economy, and further explained the Texan tax structure and overall state budget. We were surprised to learn that Texas can’t run budget deficits!
After lunch in the Capitol, we then met with Jason Fearneyhough, Deputy Agriculture Commissioner. We enjoyed an excellent question and answer session with him, discussing a wide range of topics. We learned that 1 in 7 Texan jobs are in agriculture, and Ag is the second largest economy in Texas (after oil and gas). Farmers in Texas experience similar challenges to farmers in Ontario, such as weather, cyclical markets, increasing regulation, declining rural populations, and mental health. Jason also discussed the impact social media can have on agriculture.
To wrap up our Capitol visit, Dr. Jim Mazurkiewicz gave us a guided tour of the building. We saw all the highlights, including the Legislature, Senate, and even the Lt. Governor’s reception room! We learned that the Texas Legislature meets for five months every two years. We really appreciated Dr. Jim’s knowledge and connections that let us see behind the scenes!
As we left Austin, Brendan and Bernice provided a Sponsor Spotlight on the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. We learned more about OFA and their areas of focus. A big thanks to OFA for their support of AALP.
Our last stop of the day was to Schwertner Land & Cattle Company – Capitol Land & Livestock. Established in 1946, this is a family business on 20,000 acres of land, and we were happy to have Jimmy Schwertner as our host. They buy farm and ranch fresh calves and yearlings in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana. This provides a market opportunity for smaller cattle farmers, and they are known for their 45-day weaning program. Thanks to Jimmy for an informative and fun tour of his operation.
We finished off a great day by heading to our hotel in Waco. This officially marks the halfway point in our tour. Time is flying by as we discover more about Texas!