BELTON — Out of the five candidates running in the Republican primary for Texas agriculture commissioner, three attended the Central Texas Republican Women’s forum Wednesday at the Wildflower Country Club in Temple.

Sid Miller, J. Allen Carnes and Eric Opiela focused on water issues in their remarks to the crowd.

Miller, a former state representative from Stephenville, said if elected, he would “do something no other agriculture commissioner has ever done — make water my number one issue.” He said his tenure as agriculture commissioner would be characterized by increased decentralization.

Decentralizing the department would allow staffers to “reconnect with the people they serve” and provide an opportunity for those just entering agriculture, he said.

“It’d give young couples who need an off-the-farm job an opportunity to work and stay on the family farm,” he said.

Carnes, the mayor of Uvalde, established his conservative bona fides by saying he “doesn’t believe elected leaders should make a living off taxpayers” and he is the only candidate in the race to have gotten term limits passed, even at a local level.

He added the “one silver lining of the drought is that everyone is talking about it.”

Opiela, a lawyer who represented the Republican Party during the recent redistricting battles, said he has “over a decade’s worth of experience working with water issues” both on the family ranch and in the courtroom.

“We have a patchwork quilt of regulation that does very little to protect the groundwater rights of private landowners,” he said. “We can’t just throw money at the problem without reforming the water laws.”

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