We are truly blessed to live in an amazing state that provides us with incredible resources to be a shining star for our nation.

As we gather to spend time with family and friends this Christmas, let us extend our gratitude to the farmers and ranchers who work tirelessly to sustain our lives.

These individuals work through unpredictable weather — rain or shine — and in a time of rising operating costs. Yet, you don’t hear any complaints. That’s just the farmer’s way.

As you walk the aisles of your neighborhood grocery store looking to buy supplies for that perfect meal, stop and think for a moment how the fresh produce, quality meats, dairy products and canned goods made their way to the store shelves. None of it would be possible without our farmers and ranchers.

We are blessed to live in America, where we are fortunate to enjoy a healthy and bountiful food supply, and it’s all thanks to agriculture.

In Texas, the farmers and ranchers who make it their life’s work to feed and clothe our nation impact our economy to the tune of more than $110 billion. Plus, agriculture supports jobs for one in seven hardworking Texans.

It’s been said that everything is bigger in Texas, and honestly, that’s just the Texas way. Just look at our agriculture industry. The Lone Star State is the nation’s leader in cattle, cotton, hay, sheep, wool, goat, mohair and horse production.

Here in El Campo, cotton is still king but ag production has grown and diversified to include aquaculture. As Texas Agriculture Commissioner, I enthusiastically support any and all agriculture production that adds to our economy.

However, while we count our blessings in the agriculture community, we must also remember our friends and neighbors who are suffering due to natural disasters.

This year was particularly difficult on agriculture, with major wildfires in the Panhandle, tornadoes in North Texas and of course, the devastation from Hurricane Harvey.

It is just for times like these that the Texas Department of Agriculture STAR Fund was established. The State of Texas Agriculture Relief (STAR) Fund raises private donations from individuals and businesses to help Texas farmers and ranchers get back on their feet after a disaster.

This isn’t a handout; it is a hand up. After the disaster passes, our ag producers often need a little help for things insurance won’t cover, like repairing a fence line or other small repairs.

That’s where the STAR Fund comes in. We can help farmers and ranchers get back to the business of providing the food and fiber we all depend on. As of today, we’ve raised over $350,000 for Texas farmers and ranchers.

Recently, I was honored to join Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue in a visit to El Campo to witness firsthand the damage to local cotton modules and hear from the ag producers personally.

I was inspired by their strength and determination. As I said then, Texas cotton is strong. But Texas cotton farmers are stronger.

As we look ahead to 2018, I know I’m thankful to be living in the greatest, most compassionate state in the nation.

The future is bright for the Lone Star State, and even brighter for Texas agriculture.

As I always say, you may need a doctor or a lawyer at some point in your life. Yet every day, three times a day, you’re going to need a farmer. That is why Texas Agriculture Matters.

Sid Miller is the Texas Agriculture Commissioner-elect. Upon being sworn in, he will become the 12th Texas Commissioner of Agriculture.

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