From The Ground Up - "Water, Rural Texas, and the Texas Legislature"

Published: May. 3, 2017 at 10:45 PM CDT
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When someone is elected to the State House of Representatives, he or she is allowed to request the committees that they would like to serve on. Since the drought of 2011, the number one requested committee hasn’t been the Appropriations Committee, or the Ways and Means Committee. It’s been the House Committee on Natural Resources. The drought turned everyone’s focal point, rural or urban, to water, and it remains a hot topic in the current legislative session. Trent Ashby is a state representative from Lufkin.

“I think the agriculture community at large needs be to laser focused on the issue of water. There’s no question when you just look at the votes whether it’s in committee or on the floor of the house or the senate, rural Texas just due to population growth in different parts of the state, we don’t have the votes that we used to have.”

Ashby’s district extends to the eastern part of the Brazos Valley.

“The undeniable fact is that agriculture is the largest user of ground water in Texas, and rightfully so, in terms of producing our food and fiber.”

Ashby serves on the House Natural Resources Committee along with Representative Kyle Kacal.

“But there’s a lot of members that didn’t grow up in rural Texas and that don’t represent rural Texas that really don’t understand why that’s important and why that’s not actually a bad thing to have such a high usage in agriculture’s arena.”

Ashby says that he and Kacal spend a lot of time trying to educate urban and suburban committee members about the importance of water to rural Texas.

“The Supreme Court has ruled that as landowners you own the groundwater beneath your property and it’s my opinion that that was a sound ruling and we need to keep it that way.”

Ashby also notes that there are some very deep pocketed efforts to appeal that ruling and move in a different direction.

“Serving on natural resources I’ve never had a bill in my committee because as I tell folks back home in most cases, the current laws on the books as it pertains to water will never be better for rural Texas than they are today. And so I spend most of my time fighting bad bills rather than trying to pass bills.”