While the Nov.4 general elections this year will decide who will be the new Texas Agriculture Commissioner for the next four years, the long road to election actually started in mid-December when candidates were required to file their letters of intent.

But early primary voting starts this week, Feb. 18, and by early estimates one of the five Republicans or one of the three Democrats to win their respective primaries on Mar. 4 (or May 27 if a primary runoff is required) will be named front runner for the job.

Eleven candidates have filed to run for the ag commissioner's post, five Republican candidates, three candidates facing off in the Democratic party primary, two Libertarians and one Green Party candidate.

While we haven't heard a great deal from the independent candidates who still have a couple of months before they start campaigning, we have compiled a list of the Republican and Democratic party candidates who are facing primary elections in the days ahead.

Current Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples will be running a different race this year, deciding to hang up his ag hat in hopes of a bigger prize, the hat worn by the Texas' Lt. Governor, leaving the office of ag commissioner up for grabs.

To read more about Texas ag issues, please check out Southwest Farm Press Daily and receive the latest news right to your inbox.

While the race for Texas Agriculture Commissioner is not always a hotly contested one, especially in recent elections, a large field of candidates is vying for the job this time around and that collection includes candidates with interesting backgrounds and some powerful endorsements, possibly setting the contest up for a colorful run.

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The Office of Texas Agriculture Commissioner is a job and title not taken lightly. Texas is the second largest agriculture-producing state behind California. An officer of the Plural Executive Branch in Texas, of which the ag commissioner is one, comes with great responsibility along with the management of a department with an annual budget of just under $600 million.

The ag commissioner's primary duty is, of course, directing, managing and operating the Texas Department of Agriculture. He/she is responsible for exercising the powers and performing the duties assigned to the department by Chapter 11 of the Texas Agricultural Code.

The commissioner is elected to a four-year term and enforces all agricultural laws in Texas. The laws cover matters as diverse as food inspection, animal quarantine, licensing, disease and pest control (including pesticide safety), and promoting exports of agriculture products grown or raised in Texas. As a legacy of its traditional duties, regulating weights and measures—as in grocery and produce scales—the department conducts annual checks on gas pumps to ensure accuracy and to protect the rights of consumers.