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Meet Kim Olson who is running for Texas Commissioner of Agriculture as a democrat.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
Kim Olson, farmer, veteran, pilot and champion of education, is dedicated to influencing the future of sustainable food production, improving markets for Texas produce, and encouraging rural and urban development that improves access to healthy food. I am the 2018 Democratic nominee for Texas Commissioner of Agriculture.
For 25 years I served in the U.S. Air Force, rising to rank of Colonel. I was among the first generation of female military pilots, and commanded troops in combat zones, including Iraq. Following retirement from the Air Force, I chose to serve again, for three years with the Texas State Guard.
As a fourth generation farmer, I learned early in life to serve as a steward of our land, air, and water and now I practice and share those lessons on my own family farm in Palo Pinto County.
I was HR director with Dallas ISD and was elected to two terms on the Weatherford ISD Board of Trustees. I authored Iraq and Back, Inside the War to Win the Peace and was President of Grace After Fire to support female veterans returning from combat. My commitment to Texans earned me an induction into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame.
Why are you running for office?
Agriculture touches all our lives. As a major industry in Texas, our jobs and our economy rely on agriculture. Farmers and ranchers take care of the natural resources that we all need, now and in years to come. Our children depend on nutritious school meals so they can be prepared to learn. My platform represents months of travel throughout the state listening to Texans from every walk of life about the issues they care about.
What makes you the most qualified person for this position?
As a U.S. Air Force Colonel and pilot, farmer, business person, administrator, and an honored public servant, Kim Olson is uniquely qualified to provide knowledgeable, reliable, and respectable leadership in state government and will focus on the food and agriculture issues that matter to Texans.
What issues are your top priorities? Name three.
Through discussions with Texans all across the state, we have identified four priority issues, including jobs and the economy; land and water; healthy communities; and local foods.
Kim is committed to a sustainable future for agriculture, improving domestic and export markets, promoting rural communities, and ensuring access to healthy food for all Texans.
Directing resources towards rural development, new and beginning farmers, economic viability of farms, healthy school meals, and national/international marketing are among the strategies.
What changes would you implement and how?
My administration will reflect my campaign, which has been about bringing folks together to strengthen our agricultural economy, promote responsible use of natural resources, and ensure healthy food access for all Texans.
We will build our presence in the export marketplace help commodity growers and livestock producers to meet the demands of growing markets, such as China and Japan. At the same time, we will support those producers who represent the largest and fastest growing segment of agriculture – smaller landholders with diversified cropping systems.
We will use rural development funds to create or improve storage, processing, and transportation infrastructure that allows producers to be more competitive and capture more of the downstream, value-added revenue. As farming and ranching becomes more complex, we will work closely with state research institutions such as Prairie View A&M and Texas A&M, and with other partners, to provide farmers with the best and most appropriate technology for wise land and water use, to ensure a safe food supply, and to improve yield and quality.
We will provide our school districts with the tools and resources needed to meet high school lunch nutritional standards for our children, rather than lowering the standard. We will acknowledge that challenges to healthy food access impacts both urban and rural communities, and will promote establishing conventional retail stores in under served areas, as well as nontraditional community-based approaches.
We will review the fee structure for all permits, licenses, and other services to make sure they are aligned with the service provided. And, most importantly, we will return integrity, respectability, transparency, and inclusiveness to the Department of Agriculture.
What factors in your life have shaped your beliefs?
As the daughter of a teacher raised in a family of farmers, I learned early on to value my education and to protect our natural resources. I was initially drawn to teaching as a career, but instead I took the oath and committed to serving this country in the US Air Force. I was compelled to become a pilot and through perseverance became one of the first female pilots to fly in combat for the US military.
These and other experiences have instilled in me a lifelong desire to serve and drive to succeed. I have also been touched deeply by the challenges that others face, perhaps most importantly during my time as president of Grace After Fire, a nonprofit founded to support female veterans returning from combat. I served two terms on the Weatherford ISD and as HR Director for the Dallas ISD, both of which allowed me to further develop my leadership skills, administrative abilities, and empathy for others – traits that will serve me in well in the Ag Department. Along with my husband, I am also proud to share the most important job of my life — parent of two amazing children. Because of them, I continue to be an advocate for education, for conservation, for economic opportunity, and for service.
What do you believe should be the function of government?
In our representative democracy, our government should serve and be accountable to its citizens by encouraging active participation of all people. I see government not as a separate entity to which I am subject, but as an institution of which I am a part. Our government should uphold the constitution, enforce the laws of the land as enacted by the representatives of the people, protect our citizens, ensure justice, promote equity, and enable fair participation in our capitalist economy.