It's only natural for Texas' urban/suburbanites to assume that the choice of agriculture commissioner has little bearing on their lives. This is false. City dwellers eat food, which is grown on farms. They fill their cars at gas pumps and weigh their produce on grocery scales, both of which the office polices for accuracy. Sometimes, they realize that the former ag commissioner has become the longest-serving governor in state history. But perhaps the most important role of the ag commissioner when it comes to urban Texas -- and one that was unfortunately mostly neglected by recent officeholder Todd Staples -- is as a source of entertainment. The ag commissioner should be a folksy parody of the real Texas -- riding horses, wearing Stetsons, disparaging President Obama with a friendly drawl.
This is why Sid Miller is the best, the Platonic ideal of what the Texas agriculture commissioner should be. One glance at his official campaign portrait, which looks like it might have been taken at the Stephenville Walmart but which actually bears a Lifetouch watermark, should be proof enough. Miller is the spitting image of J.R. Ewing, if J.R. Ewing ate more hamburgers. He even wears a Texas flag lapel-pin!
If his looks aren't proof enough, one needs only examine his record. Just this past Friday, Miller denounced recommended changes to federal dietary guidelines as, in effect, anti-Texan.
The report, written by a panel of scientists and medical doctors -- also known as "experts" -- to guide policies at the the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, isn't earth-shaking. It reviews the evidence and concludes that 1) Americans are fat; 2) Americans are plagued by preventable diseases like diabetes; 3) the high-fat, high-sugar foods Americans put into their bodies are largely to blame for the fatness and the disease; and 4) Americans should eat more fruits and vegetables and less red meat and sugar. To that end, the government should craft policies that encourage people to eat less crap, possibly including some version of a soda tax.
Miller, by contrast, denounced the intrusion of "big brother" into the American diet and said he wants to "encourage all Texans to make sure you enjoy a tasty steak and sweet tea for dinner."
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Miller also wants Texans to enjoy more desserts. Upon taking office, his first official act was to grant amnesty to cupcakes, a step he argued was necessary to inform parents that it's OK for them to bring baked desserts to their child's school for birthdays and other celebrations. "I also pardoned pies, cookies and brownies," he explained on his podcast.
Not that Miller's pronouncements are limited to comestibles. He also has opinions on history (he refers to the Civil War as the "War of Northern Aggression"), climate science ("Folks, it is cold outside. Where is Al Gore and his global warming when you need him?") and Ted Nugent (he served as Miller's campaign treasurer).
None of this is terribly remarkable coming from a Texas Republican. What's awesome about Miller is that, unlike fellow crazy-talker Dan Patrick, who is the most powerful man in the state Senate and is thus in a position to shape policies that will affect all Texans for years to come, Miller's policies won't have any direct impact on non-farmers, so long as the department he runs keeps making sure people aren't getting screwed at the gas pump.
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.