AUSTIN — Agriculture can be a tough business. As an eighth-generation farmer and rancher, I am very familiar with the ups and downs brought on by drought, windstorms, hail, flooding, market fluctuation and government regulation. For that reason, it can often be hard to keep farming and ranching as a family business. When faced with the easier opportunities today’s world offers our kids, agriculture can be a pretty hard sell. It takes a special young man or young woman to step up and choose agriculture.
Fortunately, thousands of young people do. By participating in their school agriculture education programs, these talented young people put their passion for agriculture into practice. By raising and showing livestock, they see the agriculture industry from the inside out, and learn valuable life skills about hard work, perseverance and striving for success. As an ag education teacher myself, I know that when they participate, not only do we ensure the continuity of agriculture, we get a better class of citizen as a result.
This is why the recent announcement of the cancellation of the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo is a sucker punch to these young men and women. While these kids lose a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to compete and learn real-world lessons through victory or defeat, there’s another consequence of this cancellation. They’re also losing an opportunity to earn winnings and scholarship money to further their education. To say nothing of the money that parents have invested in the agriculture education pursuits of their children, or the damage to our local businesses who have lost yet another opportunity to sell goods and services.
The decision by the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo Executive Committee has a direct and harsh negative financial impact on ag families across the region, placing a real financial hardship on families already struggling to survive this pandemic.
This cancellation is even harder to explain, when it follows so closely on the heels of major announcements at which large, national events such as the National Finals Rodeo, Cowboy Christmas, National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Championship Futurity and Professional Bull Riding are welcomed with open arms into the very same city.
To be clear, I support these events and am excited they’re coming to Texas. These events will be a huge boost to the local economy, while highlighting Texas agriculture and western sports. But they provide a stark contrast to the cancellation of the FWSSR, and the crushing of so many hopes and dreams of young people striving to stay passionate about agriculture.
To add insult to injury, parents are having to explain to their disappointed kids that the entire FWSSR was cancelled not just due to COVID-19 – which we’ve all become accustomed to – but because of the onset of flu season.
Flu season? Really?
The Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo survived 120 years of hardship, not even cancelling because of World War I, the Great Depression or, no, not even for the 1918 Flu Pandemic. The only closure was in 1943 when most of the young men were off fighting Nazis instead of raising livestock.
To compound this embarrassment, this cancellation is happening in the midst of the great reawakening of Texas from its COVID-19 slumber. Every day, more businesses are re-opening, people are getting back to work, kids are going back to school, and events are stampeding back to the Lone Star State.
Yet as Texas speeds towards renormalization, the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo can be seen headed the other way, in full retreat.
Folks, this is Texas. We built this state — this former republic — through grit and determination, and that same grit and determination is evident in our fight against this virus.
Yet, as the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo Executive Committee have shown us, the virus is no longer our enemy.
Fear is our enemy. Fear of not just infection, but litigation. Make no mistake, the decision to cancel this event was made not because of doctors, but because of lawyers.
I regret this cancellation and what it means not just for the young men and women whose dreams were crushed by this action, nor just for their parents who must now shoulder yet another unnecessary burden due to this COVID-19 insanity. I regret this cancellation for the impact it has not just on the rural communities at the heart of agriculture, but for the future of our entire ag industry.
Texas farmers and ranchers feed and clothe America and the world. How can the next generation of farmers and ranchers continue to do that when institutions like the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo fail them here at home?
Enough is enough. Let this cancellation be the last sad act in this awful pandemic, and let’s get back to normal, back to business and back to being Texans.
An eighth-generation Texas farmer and rancher, Sid Miller is the 12th Commissioner of the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA). A ten-time world champion rodeo cowboy, he has devoted his life to promoting Texas agriculture, rural communities and the western heritage of Texas.
For more information visit the Texas Department of Agriculture website at www.texasagriculture.gov or contact Communications Director Mark Dallas Loeffler at 512.475.1669
–Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller
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