Monday, December 22, 2008
We particularly recognize individuals who have reached a milestone by having served TDA from 5 to 35 years. For a list of the employees honored this year, click here.
Friday, December 19, 2008
In case you missed it, Lancaster Today highlighted my message to the group:
Ag commissioner shares thoughts on Texas community with BSW
By DANIELLE PARKER
Wednesday, December 17
Living in a metropolitan area, agriculture may not be a prime concern to the residents of Southwest Dallas County. But at the Best Southwest Partnership quarterly luncheon, Texas Commissioner of Agriculture Todd Staples communicated the importance of Texas agriculture and community development.
“If you are eating today or wearing clothes, you are involved in agriculture,” Staples said. “In 2007, for the first time ever, agriculture contributed more than $100 billion to Texas economy and 9.5 percent of the state's total gross product. People really don't think about agriculture until there is a problem.”
Contrary to popular belief, Staples said the Texas Department of Agriculture centers upon much more than agriculture.
“We focus on a variety of issues and concerns, working for the advancement and opportunity for all of us in Texas,” Staples said. “We act as the state's weights and measures to protect consumers and businesses.”
One of TDA's primary concentrations is child obesity and education, an area in which Texas has become a leader in recent years, according to Staples.
“Texas ranks sixth in the nation in child obesity,” Staples said. “Our priority is to turn the trend around. We are encouraging food service directors and administrators to helps us implement programs to teach the importance of healthy living.
TDA is partnering with schools and businesses to preserve Texas' quality education, which Staples said is not only vital to students, but the businesses as well.
“We must make certain we invest in our children. We have to communicate the importance of these programs for not only their health and well-being, but also the health for our economy. As a business community, you are the end users of our graduates.”
Education and a sense of community is what Staples said sets Texas apart. Understanding the unique qualities of Texas, TDA has initiated the GO Texan campaign, which promotes the products, cultures and communities of the state.
“We recently discovered that 96 percent of Texans prefer Texas products,” Staples said. “People around the globe are excited about Texas. We, as Texans, have an image that we can capitalize on.”
With the nation's economy in its current shape, Staples highlighted that Texas is better off than most financially.
“Unlike many states, such as Michigan and California, who are calling on the federal government to bail them out, Texans have planned ahead financially with low taxes and a high quality of life. We are a welcome mat for opportunity.”
Staples believes that Texas has all of the traits to become a retirement destination for seniors around the nation.
“Texas is the second most popular state for retirement, but we want to be No. 1,” Staples said Retirees contribute about $2.3 trillion in annual spending. I don't know about you, but I want that money coming into Texas' economy. Retirees are an industry.'
In March 2007, Duncanville became the fourth Go Texan Certified Retirement Community and Staples encouraged Cedar Hill, DeSoto and Lancaster communities to join their neighbor.
“It would be easy to say, ‘Well Duncanville already is a CRC. Do we really need another in this area?' As businesspeople, you are well aware of how a cluster economy can build off of one another. The best way to attract people to your area is to have several cities that have multiple things to offer them. As a community that is working together, you can cast a much bigger net.”
Staples applauded the work the BSW partnership was doing in its collective effort to create a community of which its residents and businessowners can be proud.
“We must maintain a spirit of cooperation that enables us to realize we are competitors, but also understand that if my neighbor does well that benefits me, too.”
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Having previously served as chair of the Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security, I can assure all Texans our system of response and recovery is fast acting and designed to be receptive to the needs of its citizens.
There is some good news for farmers and ranchers who suffered losses and damages from Hurricane Ike in September. Thanks to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) and our state’s senators and representatives in Congress, $13.7 million in funds are available to Texas farmers and ranchers in 20 designated counties.
Texas farmers and ranchers can apply for the funding to pay for things like debris removal and fence restoration. But there are some limited conditions in order for land to be eligible. Hurricane Ike must have created new conservation problems that, if untreated, would:
- Impair or endanger the land
- Materially affect the land's productive capacity
- Represent unusual damage which, except for wind erosion, is not the type likely to recur frequently in the same area
- Be so costly to repair that federal assistance is or will be required to return the land to productive agricultural use
To see if you are eligible and to apply, visit www.usda.gov for more information on the program. The ECP application period is for 60 days. Sign-up dates for counties impacted by Hurricane Ike are as follows:
Dec. 1, 2008 – Jan. 29, 2009 Jan. 5 – Mar. 5, 2009
Angelina County Brazoria County
Cherokee County Chambers County
Houston County Galveston County
Jasper County Hardin County
Nacogdoches County Harris County
Newton County Jefferson County
Polk County Liberty County
Rusk County Montgomery County
San Jacinto County Orange County
Monday, December 15, 2008
The Texas Emissions Reduction Plan, or TERP, offers agricultural producers grants that will fund up to 80 percent of replacing old vehicles or up to 100 percent of replacing an emissions-producing engine. TERP aims to improve air quality in urban and near-urban areas by removing as many sources of pollution as possible.
For more information on deadlines and eligibility, visit www.tdagrants.org, or call 1-800-919-TERP.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Hurricane Ike resulted in what was most likely the largest cattle drive in Texas and North America. Approximately 15,000 head of cattle were displaced by the storm, and it was critical to move fast to make sure the surviving livestock received food, water and nutrients. Without hesitation, a partnership of Texans was formed.
Because of the outstanding efforts of several state and federal agencies, as well as close coordination with industry partners such as the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, Independent Cattlemen’s Association and others, Southeast Texas will be able to recover from the devastating impact.
The video is expected to be available in January 2009 and we will post it on the Texas Department of Agriculture’s Web site at www.tda.state.tx.us.
If you or someone you know still needs assistance from Hurricane Ike, visit TDA’s Web site and click on our Hurricane Ike Recovery Resource Fact Sheet.
Bill Ludwig, U.S. Department of Agriculture Southwest Region Administrator for Food Nutrition Services, coordinated the round-table discussion that included representatives from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas, Texas AgriLife Extension Family and Consumer Sciences, the Agatston Research Foundation and The OrganWise Guys health education program . We shared ideas on how to decrease obesity rates among our younger generations, and I am excited to say there are already some great efforts underway to help combat this terrible epidemic.
As you may already know, Texas ranks sixth in the nation in childhood obesity, and in 2005 Texas businesses spent an estimated $3.3 billion on costs related to obesity. This is a trend we must change.
Although Texas schools are already doing an outstanding job of fighting obesity, the realty is we are losing our children after school, during the weekends and in the summers. Through a collaborative effort we can all help Texas children by encouraging them to adopt the 3Es of Healthy Living: Education, Exercise and Eating right. These components are critical to winning the war on obesity.
The upcoming legislative session will give us many opportunities to make gains in our fight against obesity. To find out more about TDA’s request to the state legislature to implement healthy lifestyles for Texas children, visit www.tda.state.tx.us and look for the link on the right called Legislative Appropriations Request.
TDA appreciates all our partners and their investment in healthy lifestyles, and I hope we can work together to improve Texans’ health and end this obesity crisis.