J. Allen Carnes, owner of Uvalde, Texas-based Winter Garden Produce, may be campaigning for the Texas commissioner of agriculture post, but he has no plans to become a career politician.
“I’ve got a career,” he said. “It’s in agriculture.”
The 38-year-old Republican cited his familiarity with retail markets and knack for maintaining good relationships with consumers as strong points that should prove beneficial if he’s elected.
He also would like to improve the relationship between agriculture and urban America.
“I really think we need ag leaders that (play) a strong role in trying to bridge the gap,” he said.
A primary election is set for March 4, and a runoff election is scheduled for May 27.
Carnes decided to seek the open seat when the current commissioner, his friend Tod Staples, decided to step down and run for the state lieutenant governor post.
“We were watching the field very closely in the spring and realized there wasn’t anybody with a true voice of agriculture in the field,” Carnes said.
Carnes has strong credentials in agriculture.
Besides coming from a third-generation agriculture operation, he is past president of the Mission-based Texas Vegetable Association, past board member of the Texas Produce Association, Texas representative for the National Council of Ag Employers and a member of the United Fresh Produce Association Governmental Relations Council.
He serves on the Uvalde City Council and currently is the city’s mayor.
If elected, Carnes said he’ll work to “allow producers to succeed and feed our state and feed our nation.”
“I’m a huge marketing guy,” he said.
While he supports the Go Texan initiative designed to boost sales of Texas-grown produce, he said the program “needs some legs,” so he will focus on that and other ways to promote Texas goods within the state, in other states and for export.
“Texas is a huge export state,” he said. “We’ve got a great trading partner to our south in Mexico.”
He wants to further that relationship and capitalize on it, “but do it in smart ways,” he said.
Carnes said he wants to see agriculture thrive, and he said it’s incumbent on the industry to create an environment that helps consumers “understand why we’re doing the things we do.”
The public doesn’t have much knowledge of issues like the farm bill, he said.
“Most people think it’s a subsidy program for farmers,” he said. “Really, it’s far from that.”