South Texas history is rooted in agriculture, and many towns and cities were originally founded as farming and ranching communities. My own ties to South Texas agriculture date back several generations. My ancestors, Macedonio Vela and his wife, Mercedes Chapa, immigrated to South Texas from Mexico and established the Laguna Seca Ranch with land purchased from John and Salome Balli McAllen. The first orange trees in Texas were planted on the ranch, and the first citrus orchard in the Rio Grande Valley was established there.
Today, even as South Texas becomes more urban, agriculture remains vital to the region’s economy. Crops grown in South Texas include citrus, cotton, sorghum and sugar. The region is also a hub for livestock production and is home to the 825,000-acre King Ranch.
When I was first sworn in as a Member of Congress, I secured a position on the Agriculture Committee. As a first-term Representative, I was honored to be appointed to the conference committee which crafted the 2014 Farm Bill, and in 2017 my colleagues voted me Vice-Ranking Member of the full committee. Currently, I chair the subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management. This subcommittee oversees crop insurance, risk management, federal disaster programs, and implementation of Farm Bill policy for general farm commodities.
I also serve on the Livestock and Foreign Agriculture and the Commodity Exchange, Energy, and Credit subcommittees. These committees have oversight over livestock, dairy, poultry, meat, and seafood; including the inspection, marketing, and promotion of commodities, aquaculture, animal welfare, grazing, foreign agricultural assistance, and trade promotion as well as oversight of policies, statutes, and markets relating to commodity exchanges; agricultural credit; rural development; and energy.
As a Congressional leader in agriculture, I am committed to supporting policies that allow South Texas producers to thrive and prosper. One of my many priorities in Congress includes halting the spread of the Fever Tick in cattle. I have spent time working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to bring awareness to the dangers of the Cattle Fever Tick and worked with the Invasive Species Caucus to host a forum, bringing Members of Congress and industry stakeholders together to discuss steps to eradicate the Fever Tick, and ensure that the cattle industry throughout the country continues to flourish. Furthermore, I served as a Co-Chair of the Congressional Citrus Caucus, working to support research to help the health of citrus crops, and advocating for the eradication of Citrus Greening, the Mexican Fruit Fly and Citrus Canker. Additionally, I have supported the Boll Weevil Eradication Program to protect cotton production.
I am also proud to have passed the Protecting America's Food and Agriculture Act of 2019. This legislation provides our agricultural inspectors at ports of entry critical funding to provide expansive monitoring and testing to prevent the entry of invasive species, which cause millions in damage to the agricultural sector year after year.
Agricultural production in the 34th District of Texas employs over 28,000 individuals and has an annual economic impact of over $2 billion. I will continue to advocate for farmers, ranchers, and rural communities in South Texas and across the nation.