Curtis Halford is the chairman of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. Representative Halford plays a vital role in the Tennessee General Assembly regarding legislation pertaining to agriculture. Farm Bureau works closely with him not only in this role, but he also serves on the House Government Operations Committee which provides oversight regarding rules and regulations from the Executive Branch of Tennessee’s government.
Tell us about yourself and your family.
I grew up in Obion County but I’ve been in Gibson County most all of my life, except when I was in college and then when I served in the Air Force. My wife and I live in the city of Dyer (Gibson County) now. My wife is from Dyer so that is where we settled. We have actually been living in the same house for the last 35 years. My wife, Charlotte, and I have been married for 53 years. We have two children and five grandchildren – they range from 4 to 22.
What was your career?
Early in my career I went to work for a small fiberglass manufacturing company and I worked for them for three to five years. Then the city of Dyer offered me a position as the superintendent for public works. It was different sounding and it was something I had never done before. It was kind of exciting to make that change from what I had done previously, as I had always been involved in manufacturing in some way. I took that job and stayed there two years. Then, the owner of the fiberglass business called and asked if I would be interested in being general manager of his business. We came to terms and I went back. After about two weeks of me going back to work for Dyer Fiberglass, the owner had a serious heart attack and never worked again. He brought me in and told me to run the business like my own and so I did for the next 20 years or so. It was a great experience. He’s a great guy and he is still there, still involved, but not nearly as active as he once was. It is a great family business and I was fortunate. I was five minutes from work and I enjoyed it. I assume it worked fine for them too, because the business is still there.
Tell us about your involvement in church/civic clubs.
I was involved in the Dyer Station Celebration for several years. My wife and I were also involved in theater for many years. As far as my church goes, I have been a long-time member of the Dyer Cumberland Presbyterian Church. I’m an elder and I’m also on the board of trustees. It’s a great, great church right in the middle of Dyer. They are great people and a great church with whom I’m proud to be associated.
Who were your role models?
I guess I would have to go back a little bit farther than my political career because my mom and dad, of course, were very influential in my life. My mom and dad were very important in my life. Growing up in a small rural community, my dad worked a small farm and also did public work at the same time. They were just good people – good, patriotic, religious people. I had one particular uncle though, my uncle Jack Siler. He taught me to hunt. I would go quail hunting with him and he would kill all of the birds but tell people I was actually the one who caught all of them. He was a very influential person in my life. As far as political life, I started this process in 2007 when Chris Crider, the former state representative for this district, decided not to run again. I was told I had to go to Huntingdon and interview with Mayor Dale Kelley. He was a former commissioner of transportation. He is just a mover and a shaker. I always admired how he always was moving ahead and never saw any blocks or a reason to not go ahead with something. I was amazed by the things he could accomplish. He’s a great guy and very influential in my life and my career. A large influence in my life and career politically.
What are your current ties to agriculture and how do you keep a connection to the industry?
So many of my constituents are farmers or are at least involved in farming someway, whether that be on the farm or other agricultural businesses. Most everything revolves around agriculture in northwest Tennessee, particularly in my district. We have acres and acres of corn, cotton and soybeans.
What is the best way for people to communicate with you?
Pick up the phone and call me. Ninety-five percent of the people in my district have my cell number. It is on the back of my business card I hand out. That’s the easiest way for people to get in touch with me, and of course email. My most important job is constituent work. That’s what I feel is my main calling – to be here. People are often intimidated by the system and I’m their go-between. I’m glad for people to call me. I like to be helpful to my constituents.
How do you work through environment/agriculture issues when there are disagreements?
As chairman, you’re as much of a referee as anything, so you want to keep those disagreements as small as possible. Fortunately, on the ag committee there are very good members. We have some long time members and we have some new members. The new members have most of the new ideas, the older members seem to be more cautious. But we talk it out. The main thing I want to be is fair, whether Democrat or Republican. I want everyone to have their voice and to say what they want to say, because they are doing what they think is best for their constituents. That is what they should do and I think that’s my job to let them do that. Then we’ll vote; and the vote is the vote.
What is something you are most proud of in your time of service?
When Governor Haslam was still here, I carried the rural economic package for the administration. I was very proud of that and it’s very important for those of us in rural districts. This last session we removed sales taxes on water for agricultural uses. That is very important for my district in northwest Tennessee or any farming district.
What do you want to accomplish in the future?
There are several things going on now that I’d like to accomplish soon. Governor Lee has continued the philosophy to work in our rural areas. That’s very important and I enjoy working on rural issues. I am on the task force that was formed through the legislature to research ag education. I am also on an agricultural committee that Interim UT President Randy Boyd has put me on for the UT System. I am very proud to be on that and looking forward to seeing what happens there.
Consistent labor is a concern for agriculture and rural areas, do you have any thoughts on that topic?
Keith Carver at UT Martin and I have had some great conversations about labor supply. They realize this industry is changing and it’s changing quickly. I made the statement several times before that when a cotton picker costs several hundred thousand dollars, you don’t just put anyone out on a cotton picker. Farming today is not our grandfather’s farming. It’s much different. It’s about efficiency and not wasting the resources we have.
What are your priorities for the next session?
My priority is to take care of the farming communities all across the state as the chairman of the ag committee and as we’ve talked before, I will try to see that my committee does the right thing and that we consider what needs to be considered. We are going to try to see everything in the correct order. We are always going to be about the ag industry and the farming industry in Tennessee.
What role does Farm Bureau play in the legislative process?
Tennessee would be in terrible shape if Farm Bureau didn’t exist. They are my go-to guys. From President Aiken, to Stefan, to Kevin and Rhedona and other folks that I’m failing to mention. I can’t imagine being in this position and not having Farm Bureau as my go-to. They do so much for Tennessee, farmers and the farming community. It would be almost impossible for us to operate without them.