Monday, December 27, 2010

Finding the right activity for your child is important

You hear it time and time again – Texas is battling a growing obesity crisis. This is a fact most of us understand.

Similarly, most of us know what foods are nutritious and which aren’t. But many parents may not know what types of physical activities their children should participate in and how often.

This article does a great job outlining doctor-approved guidelines for keeping your children active. I encourage parents to take a look and try to incorporate some of these fun activities into their kids’ daily routines.

Remember, it takes more than just eating healthy to live a healthy life. It takes the 3E’s – Education, Exercise and Eating Right – to enjoy a healthy lifestyle.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Give Beyond Christmas

Christmas always makes me count my blessings and I hope it does the same for you. This time of year, we should all be reminded that giving is more than just wrapping presents for friends and family. Giving is something we can offer our fellow Texans in the form of donations, time and goodwill.

In the spirit of giving this holiday season, I ask you to consider reaching out to others. Take your children to a food bank donation box and teach them the power of giving. Give your time to a shelter and help serve meals to the hungry. Look through your closets and consider donating your gently used clothes to someone who needs them far worse than you.

Small, simple acts of giving can make a profound difference in the lives of others. You, too, will receive the gift of knowing you helped your fellow citizens.

One of my holiday wishes this year is to have the spirit of Christmas last longer than just a few days. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we allowed the Christmas spirit to dwell within us for the other 364 days each year? It all starts with the desire to help those whose voices are often not heard. Now is your chance to bring joy to those in need.

Merry Christmas, Texas. Please share with me in the glory, the wonder and the miracle of this holiday season. Have a blessed Christmas.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Texas Adding Congressional Seats

It comes as no surprise the recently released 2010 U.S. Census reports Texas' total population growth outpaced that of each other state across our nation. With our housing market, job creation and overall economy weathering the recession better than most states, Texas is more attractive than ever as a place to live, work, do business, raise a family and retire. In fact, Texas' growth stands in contrast to much of the rest of the nation, which according to the Census experienced the slowest rates of population growth since the 1940s.

Texas' growing population will result in four additional congressional seats for a total delegation of 36 representatives. The Census reports population growth in Texas was 20.6 percent compared to the last Census in 2000.

More precise results will not be known until late February or early March of 2011. Those results will show block-by-block total population, allowing for the state legislature to redistrict Congressional, state legislature, courts and state board of education member districts.

Maintaining a strong delegation in Washington D.C. and Austin is important to agriculture, not only for farmers and ranchers, but also for all consumers. We need people in all elected offices to understand the importance of our domestic food supply, because food security and national security go hand-and-hand.

Therefore, I plan to wholeheartedly continue to be engaged in the redistricting process to ensure Texas remains a powerhouse of agricultural production and a powerful, job-creating state. Texas is open for business, and we are ready to get to work so our tomorrow is even better than today.

For more information, visit: http://2010.census.gov/2010census/

Add Exercise to Your Holiday Menu

I recently came across an article that listed the six worst holiday foods and beverages. Listed as the worst holiday dessert in terms of calories was pecan pie!

Now folks, if you ever had a piece of my wife’s pecan pie, you’d agree those are fightin’ words. While I was concerned with the suggestion that I should change my holiday season eating habits, I soon calmed down enough to realize the article has a point. First, holiday foods are fine in moderation. Also, don’t forget to be active during the holidays. While we plan on enjoying some delicious tastes and treats this holiday season (visit the 2010 GO TEXAN Holiday Gift Guide for some ideas), we should also plan on getting a little more exercise to offset the extra calories.

As for me, I am looking forward to cutting and splitting some firewood, and replacing some fence posts. Swinging the axe and digging some holes will certainly burn a few calories.

If your fence is in better shape than mine, you can burn holiday calories and stay fit year-round by signing up for a 30-day trial membership at your local gym. Get your whole family involved!

Enjoy your holiday treats and remember to practice the 3E’s of Healthy Living - Exercise, Education and Eating Right! A happy and healthy lifestyle should be more than wishful thinking.

Friday, December 17, 2010

New Tax Law Favors All Hardworking Americans

I am thankful that tax relief, put in place during President Bush’s first term, will continue for at least two more years, but I am still mystified on the thinking of some members of Congress.

Isn’t it ironic that Congress can have a debate on deficit reduction without any discussion of cutting federal government expenditures? The odd thing is some lawmakers considered letting the tax rates go up as the only answer to deficit reduction. You reduce deficits by living within your revenue means and cutting costs – not by mandating higher taxes. We can only hope the next Congress, which convenes in January, will understand this simple concept.

Of particular interest to our farmers and ranchers in this new law is the reworking of the estate tax provision. More commonly known as the death tax because of its impact on the estates of deceased farmers and ranchers, this new law will make it possible for countless agricultural operations to stay in production.

Thanks again to a cooperative show of political negotiation, the new law provides a two-year period in which farm and ranch lands can be taxed no more than 35 percent after a $5 million exemption. This is in sharp contrast to the proposed 55-percent/$1 million exemption that would leave many farmers and ranchers no other choice than to sell their land or cease operation.

I often remind people that our farmers and ranchers provide us with the safest, most abundant and most affordable food supply in the world. The new estate tax law makes it possible for them to continue to do so – and for that we should all be thankful.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Future of Farming is Going Wireless

You may not know it from television commercials, but wireless technology is no longer exclusive to urban commuters, texting teens and coffee shop patrons.

As this article from the Texas Farm Bureau reports, the reach of today's wireless technology also extends to rural farmlands where it is making impressive strides toward crop improvement.

Thanks to science and wireless technology, it is now possible for farmers to continuously and more precisely monitor such critical field conditions as soil moisture and temperature in order to produce a superior product for consumers. With this unprecedented ability to make exact adjustments during the growing season and harvest, farmers can now produce higher yields and greater quality while increasing profitability and replicating successful growing strategies. They also can troubleshoot like never before, making it possible to better leverage cause-and-effect relationships between the soil and their crops.

Like everything else in modern society, the future of farming is going wireless. As a consumer of things grown in Texas, stay tuned for quality produce, cotton and more as life moves forward by leaps and bounds.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Texas Christmas Trees and Poinsettias Make All Houses Feel Like Homes

I had the great pleasure this week of presenting Texas grown Christmas trees and poinsettias to the Ronald McDonald House in Austin. The beautiful trees, donated by our friends at Evergreen Farms in Elgin, and the flowers, which were given by the Texas State Florists’ Association, have helped bring the scent and color of Christmas to this “home away from home” for many Texas families.

While our Texas farmers work hard all year to raise these beautiful holiday trees and flowers, the folks at the Ronald McDonald House also do admirable work each and every day. The facility offers a comfortable setting for families and their children who are seriously ill or injured and receiving treatment at all Austin hospitals. Today’s gifts of Christmas trees and poinsettias brought these families and their children one step closer to home for the holidays.

I encourage all Texans to make their houses feel more like homes this holiday season with Texas Christmas trees and poinsettias. The beautiful trees and flowers that brought such joy to the Ronald McDonald House can do the same for your home as the spirit of the season draws near. For a list of Texas Christmas tree farms and nurseries, visit www.TexasAgriculture.gov and click on GO TEXAN Programs.

May all your holidays be blessed.

GO TEXAN for Gifts

I’m not sure about you, but for me, Christmas shopping doesn’t come easy. Thankfully there’s an easy way to fill your loved ones’ stockings with Texas pride – by using the 2010 GO TEXAN Holiday Gift Guide – your one-stop shop for locally made products.

Texas is rich in diversity, and the products Texans make are no exception. From hunting and outdoor accessories to jewelry, furniture and food, the 2010 GO TEXAN Holiday Gift Guide features more than 250 Texas companies, some offering discounts of up to 20 percent.

When you buy Texas products, you are supporting local businesses and, in turn, investing your dollars in the Texas economy. A study by Texas Tech University found GO TEXAN members’ sales provided an economic impact of more than $1.46 billion in 2009, and each business employed 16 people on average.

This holiday, I encourage you to GO TEXAN for gifts. GO TEXAN members add Texas value to their products right here in the Lone Star State, so you know you are getting real Texas products and helping create real economic results for your state and your neighbors.

To view or download the 2010 GO TEXAN Gift Guide, click here or visit www.TexasAgriculture.gov. You can also scroll through it below.

Happy Holidays and remember to GO TEXAN this season!

GOTEXAN Holiday Gift Guide

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Trade Agreement With South Korea Would Bring Jobs to Texas

From beef cattle raisers and corn growers to dairy producers and soybean farmers, varied agriculture groups are praising the recent progress on the U.S.-South Korea Trade Agreement.

While Congress and the South Korean National Assembly still must ratify this agreement (and do so quickly in order to eliminate any unfair advantage sought by other countries), these negotiations will have huge implications for the Texas economy. We’re talking jobs here.

The door is now opening for Texas farmers and ranchers to have access to the nearly 50 million consumers in South Korea. While concessions have been made in areas, including rules on beef trade, according to USDA, this new deal will result in “a combination of tariff phase outs, new tariff-rate quotas and regulatory harmonization that will result in improved access to South Korea’s $1 trillion economy.”

This progress is certainly long-awaited news for all of American agriculture and will help ensure our producers can compete on a more level playing field when it comes to facing international competition. Not only do we hope Congress will approve this Free Trade Agreement, and do so quickly, we also think the time is right to act on the pending Columbia and Panama Free Trade Agreements as well.

Christmas is still weeks away, but Congress can now provide a gift to American agriculture that is long overdue.

Click here more info on this story.

TDA Proudly Partners with Walmart to Fight Hunger in Texas

Hunger in Texas remains a serious concern, which is why I was honored to partner with Walmart yesterday in announcing a Facebook campaign aimed at feeding America’s hungriest communities. In Texas, the cities of Austin/Round Rock, San Antonio, Houston and Dallas are eligible for Walmart’s generous $1 million hunger-relief grant. Five runner-up cities will receive $100,000 each.

According to a USDA report issued in November, 17 percent of Texas households are food insecure – more than the national average. By visiting Walmart’s Facebook page at fightinghunger.walmart.com and voting for one of the four eligible Texas cities, you can help feed our neighbors in need. Please take the time today to reach out and help your fellow Texans by casting your vote. Your click can be the difference between hunger and help.

To watch a video clip of the entire news conference at the Capital Area Foodbank in Austin, click here.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pearl Harbor: From Chaos Comes Courage

On this morning 69 years ago, the calm of Hawaii was shattered as the Japanese ambushed Pearl Harbor and brought the United States into World War II. In the words of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dec. 7, 1941, is “a date which will live in infamy.” Truer words could not be spoken.

Unfortunately war is a difficult reality that continues even today, but from chaos comes courage. This is what I ask you to ponder today. Take a moment to be grateful for our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines and their families who answer the call to keep us safe. Thank a veteran, be proud of our flag and never forget the sacrifices of our troops who preserve peace on our home soil and fight our enemies abroad.

Pearl Harbor is one of America’s deepest scars, but it should also be a reminder of the patriotic pride and American heroism that led us to victory in World War II. If not for our armed forces, we could not be free. Think about that today.

God bless our troops, past and present. And may God continue to bless America.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Help us Fight Hunger in Texas

Be sure to log on to the Texas Department of Agriculture's USTREAM channel tomorrow, Dec. 7 at 2:30 p.m. CST, to watch a live stream of our joint press conference with Walmart and the Capital Area Foodbank of Texas. We will be announcing a new campaign to fight hunger in Texas. You can also watch the live stream right here from my blog:


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

New A&M Pharmaceutical Facility Helps Texas Shine

I always love to include this line when talking about the Lone Star State: Texas is a great place to do business, live, work, raise a family and retire - and this becomes more real and true each day.

While this is true, it doesn't happen by chance. It happens because along with our scenic and diverse landscape comes commitment, ingenuity and forward thinking.

This article in the New York Times explains part of the reason the Texas economy continues to shine. Besides the jobs and life-enhancing innovation that will come from this new Texas A&M pharmaceutical facility in Bryan, Texas, I am also particularly proud of the fact that agriculture is a part of this highly advanced process of making life better.

We should all applaud the leadership and effort it required to land this facility in Bryan. Initiatives like this will ensure Texas continues to be a great place to do business, live, work, raise a family and retire.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Let's Put the Giving Back in Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite days of the year as it brings together family, fellowship and feasting (and yes, the 4th "f" and a very important one- football). Most importantly, though, Thanksgiving reminds me to count my blessings - and I hope it does the same for you.

Thanks to our farmers and ranchers, America is home to the safest, most abundant and most affordable food supply in the world. Here in Texas, we've had the added good fortune of a statewide economy that's weathered the national recession better than most other states. While America remains the land of plenty and Texas stands tall in many respects, our state and nation still struggle with the issue of hunger.

Just last week, a United States Department of Agriculture report found that food insecurity ratings in America remain the highest they've been in the 15 years since the government began tracking such statistics. Those statistics translate to 17.4 million U.S. households that do not have consistent, dependable access to sufficient food.

In Texas, the news is not much better. With more than 17 percent of Texas households considered food insecure – a rate that is significantly higher than the national average – Texas ranks among the top states for food insecurity. With a $100 billion agriculture industry hard at work each day, Texas is a powerhouse of productivity, which makes our hunger situation unacceptable and even more troubling.

As you gather to feast with family and friends this Thanksgiving, please be mindful of our hungry neighbors. Consider donating time, money or food to your local food bank. Thanksgiving often prompts a wave of welcome goodwill, but hunger persists 365 days each year. Let today be the day you put the giving back in Thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving, Texas.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Salute to Our Soldiers on Veterans Day

As Americans, we are blessed to live our lives outside the shadowing fear of lawlessness and tyranny. We leave our homes each day expecting to reunite with our families in the evening. We rest easy through the night and awaken each morning to another day of freedom. Thanks to the sacrifices of our servicemen and women, we as Americans live in a manner that is locked and off limits to most of the world.

On this Veterans Day, I ask you to take a moment and appreciate the freedoms afforded by our past and present military. As you read this in the comfort of your home or office, there are brave men and women - our sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles - who are under the gun and in harm's way so that we may live in peace. Let us be mindful of their service and the families who pray for their safety. Let us remember our retired and fallen who put us where we are today. America. The Land of the Free.

I also ask today that we remember and pray for the lives that were shattered a year ago this month at Fort Hood in Killeen. Our hearts are heavy for their unspeakable loss. We know that no amount of justice will return their loved ones and we reach out to them with remembrance and gratitude. You and your loved ones are not forgotten. We pray that you find peace.

Please count your blessings as an American today and then thank a soldier for wearing the uniform.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

After Elections, Our Work Continues

With Election Day behind us, I look forward to continuing the work we do at the Texas Department of Agriculture for the people of Texas.

Texans and Americans enjoy the safest, most affordable food supply in the world. But with the population of Texas expected to almost double from 25 million to 46 million people in 50 years, our agriculture industry must continually evolve and innovate to ensure it can efficiently meet a growing domestic demand and compete in the global marketplace. America has seen the dangers of being dependent on foreign oil; we must not become dependent on foreign food.

As your agriculture commissioner, I'm excited about assisting our farmers and ranchers in growing and safeguarding the food supply that will feed us today and into the future. Equally important will be the enhancement of initiatives created to protect all Texas consumers. Whether it’s ensuring the most affordable food supply or ensuring the best quality and accuracy at the gas pump, TDA is working hard for you.

I look forward to the next four years as your agriculture commissioner and am humbled by the trust placed in me. That trust is what motivates me every day to fulfill my responsibility to the people of Texas. Together, we will continue to make the Lone Star State shine brightly at home and abroad. The people of Texas deserve nothing less.

West Texas Mill Makes Denim for the Masses

Guest Blogger: Rick Rhodes, Assistant Commissioner for Rural Economic Development
Special Contributor: Mica Graybill, Communications Intern, Plains Cotton Cooperative Association

Last month, I had the opportunity to tour the American Cotton Growers (ACG) Denim Mill in Littlefield, Texas.

With an annual capacity to produce 38 million linear yards of denim, ACG is one of the most modern and well-known textile facilities in the world. It currently employs 545 people, with an annual payroll of approximately $20.5 million.

As the largest employer in Lamb County, ACG makes a tremendous impact on the local economy. In local taxes and utilities, ACG contributes approximately $4.9 million per year to the local economy. Meanwhile, cotton contributes an estimated $4 billion dollars annually to the entire state’s economy.

This type of pioneering spirit and entrepreneurship not only drives the Texas economy, but also keeps the Lone Star State at the forefront of the worldwide marketplace. For that, my hat's off to ACG.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Going to Bat for Childhood Nutrition

Guest Blogger: Lindsay Rodgers, Deputy Assistant Commissioner for Food and Nutrition


In keeping with the spirit of the World Series, teams of Texas child nutrition professionals recently went to bat on behalf of nutrition and wellness.

Taking the field Oct. 23 in the Mount Pleasant area of East Texas, the Lunch Bunch Fall Softball Tournament of Champions covered all the bases of good fun and friendly competition. In the end, the Pittsburg ISD Peaches beat the Mt. Pleasant ISD CafĂ©’ Divas and the Hughes Springs ISD Chili Peppers to take the championship title.

The tournament was such a hit, the nutrition pros have agreed to continue their exercise efforts and play at least one tournament every fall and spring.

Let's applaud these teams for stepping up to the plate on game day and every day to promote the 3E’s of Healthy Living - Education, Exercise and Eating Right!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Texas Leads States in Economic Health

Guest Blogger: Drew DeBerry, Deputy Agriculture Commissioner

It seems hardly a day goes by where I don't find some mention of Texas in the news for being a frontrunner in the nation’s economy.

Most recently, the Texas economy received national accolades for its employment. National Review Online reported last week, "more than half of the net new jobs in the U.S. during the past 12 months were created in the Lone Star State."

And last month, Meredith Whitney, a noted financial analyst known for predicting the national banking crisis, named Texas the national leader in state financial health. Whitney’s 600-page report on the condition of state governments titled “Tragedy of the Commons: Launching Ratings on the Top 15 States” says only Texas and Virginia earned overall positive rankings among the 15 largest states.

In an interview on CNBC, Whitney said, “The best state is actually Texas, by a mile.”

You can read Fortune Magazine’s coverage of her report here. You can watch her interview on CNBC here: (Texas discussion begins at about 3:45.)















And finally, within our great state, sales tax collections are definitely pointing in the right direction. In September, the state reported sales tax collections increased by nearly 7 percent compared to a year ago.

While all of this national recognition is welcome and appreciated, the real benefit to all Texans is the fact that our economy is truly ahead of the curve.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Agriculture Goes to Bat in 2010 World Series

As the 2010 World Series steps up to the plate, baseball fans may be surprised to know how agriculture plays out on the Field of Dreams. From wooden bats and leather mitts to cotton uniforms and turfgrass, America's pastime would be a tough pitch without the products of farmers and ranchers. So, whether you're rooting for the Texas Rangers or San Francisco Giants in this year's World Series, keep an eye out for agriculture while you're staying glued to the tube.
  • Baseball bats are made of wood and in Texas, the timber industry produces more than 500 million cubic feet of lumber annually with a delivered value of more than $600 million.
  • Leather is used to make mitts and Texas leads the nation in cattle with more than 13 million head, which have an annual production value of about $6 billion.
  • Peanuts are a favorite snack at baseball games and in Texas, we produce more than 700 million pounds of peanuts - enough to make 7 billion peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
  • Hot dogs are a traditional favorite at baseball games and the Texas pork industry has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $250 million.
  • Hot dogs also need hot dog buns. Texas growers produce an average of 90 million bushels of wheat annually - enough to make more than 25 billion hot dog buns.
  • Texas is a leading dairy state and produces enough milk each year to fill the Texas Rangers Ball Park in Arlington nearly eight times.
  • Texas is the nation's No. 1 cotton-producing state, growing enough cotton every year to make about 3 billion baseball uniforms. If the bales of cotton produced in Texas were placed side-by-side, they could line both sides of the road from the Rangers' ballpark to the San Francisco Giants' home field.
  • Want wool socks to go with that uniform? Texas is the top wool-producing state in the nation, with more than 800,000 sheep yielding nearly 4 million pounds of wool.
  • Cornstarch can be used to make biodegradable plastic for drink cups, tableware, and more. Texas growers expect to produce 294 million bushels of corn in 2010.
  • The grass is always greener at the ballpark. Texas harvests nearly 40,000 acres of turf grass sod annually.
  • How better to celebrate a world championship than with a good steak dinner? Texas produces about 8 billion pounds of beef a year.
  • Where else but Texas can you find a World Series baseball teamed owned by a Texas rancher who has a brand of beef named after him? Nolan Ryan produces great Texas beef and a world-class baseball team.
These are just a few examples of agriculture powering every aspect of our daily lives, from our dinnertimes to our pastimes.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

TDA's Wine Passport Program Wins Award



Guest Blogger: Kerry Neely, Deputy Assistant Commissioner for Marketing


I'm proud to announce the Texas Department of Agriculture's Texas Winery Passport Program won the 2010 North American Agriculture Marketing Officials (NAAMO) Agricultural Marketing Excellence award!

The winery passport program works in new and innovative ways to offer incentives to visitors experiencing Texas wine country. Through the program, more than 1 million travelers visit Texas vineyards and wineries, while meeting the winemakers who take pride in their craft. Thanks to those winemakers, Texas is the fifth-leading wine-producing state in the nation.

When travelers redeem their passports, not only does TDA send them a reward or connect them with a reward-donating winery that offers tastings, dinners or overnight stays, the agency also receives valuable feedback about consumer interests that serves as essential market research.

NAAMO awarded TDA and Texas this honor above all other U.S. states and Canadian provinces. To learn more about the Texas Winery Passport Program, visit www.gotexanwine.org.

Congratulations again to TDA's Marketing and Promotion Division for superior strategy and excellent execution!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

TDA Kicks Off "Hog Out Month - Get the Hog Outta Texas!"


Guest Blogger, Drew DeBerry, Deputy Agriculture Commissioner

A big, Texas-sized thank you goes out to Tarrant County and about 60 other Texas counties that have accepted Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples' statewide challenge "Hog Out Month - Get the Hog Outta Texas!"

The challenge is aimed at reducing the costly feral hog population in Texas by challenging counties to compete for grant money for having the highest number of hogs removed; highest number of participants at a TDA-approved education program about feral hog abatement; and highest number of acres in the county that landowners will commit to allow access by trappers.

As any farmer or rancher will tell you, feral hogs are destructive to property and livestock throughout Texas. With additional damage done to urban areas and vehicles, feral hogs cost Texas taxpayers up to $400 million each year in property damages.

In the spirit of fun and football, the announcement of this challenge also serves to invite Texans to the "Hog Out Tailgate Party" scheduled as part of the Texas A&M Aggies versus Arkansas Razorbacks game at Cowboys Stadium Oct. 9. Cheering the Aggies to victory over the Razorbacks will help rally the fight against feral hogs.

A special thanks to Arlington Mayor Dr. Robert Cluck and Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley for joining Commissioner Staples and endorsing "Hog Out Month - Get the Hog Outta Texas!" Both men know firsthand the damage caused by feral hogs in Tarrant County and offered their full support and participation.

For more information about "Hog Out Month - Get the Hog Outta Texas!" visit www.TexasAgriculture.gov and look under Most Popular Links. Go Texas landowners! Go Aggies, and let's all work to "Get the Hog Outta Texas!"

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Muleshoe to Star on National Network

Guest Blogger, Rick Rhodes, Assistant Commissioner of Rural Economic Development

Besides having immediate name recognition, the city of Muleshoe, Texas, also has promoted itself as a tourism destination through the Texas Department of Agriculture's GO TEXAN Rural Community Program.

Last June, the Food Network visited Muleshoe to film an "Ace of Cakes" episode called "Slow Mules and Fast Cars." Chef Duff Goldman and his crew experienced true Texas hospitality as they enjoyed a potluck dinner, complete with savory Texas brisket and homemade ice cream. The bakers even got to ride authentic Muleshoe mules.

More than 200 people, including TDA Rural Economic Development staff, eagerly awaited the Muleshoe-themed cake made by Chef Duff and his crew. The cake was in the shape of a mule-riding hat (6” brim) - not to be confused with a cowboy hat - sitting on top of two mule shoes. Christian, the mule ridden by Chef Duff, even sampled some cake.


The episode will air Thursday, Sept. 30, at 9 p.m. CST on the Food Network. The national exposure for the city of Muleshoe is another step city leaders are taking to promote Muleshoe and its quality of life. The city also is currently working on its GO TEXAN Certified Retirement Community application, which helps Texas communities market themselves as tourism and retirement destinations.

I applaud the leaders of Muleshoe for taking steps get the city's name out there.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Free Pesticide Waste Disposal

Guest Blogger: Jimmy Bush, Texas Department of Agriculture Assistant Commissioner for Pesticide Programs

In an effort to help agricultural producers properly dispose of pesticides, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has scheduled free collection events during September and October.

TCEQ will accept old pesticides, including those that are now banned for use. They will also accept other chemicals like petroleum fuels, automotive fluids, grease, oil filters and lead acid batteries.

Producers may bring two, 55-gallon drums of oil filters. If you have more than one pickup truck load of pesticide waste, contact TCEQ or your county extension agent to coordinate delivery.

I encourage all Texas ag producers to please take the time to properly dispose of waste materials. To find a complete schedule of pesticide waste disposal pick-ups, click here. For more information on upcoming collection events, including which pesticides will be accepted, visit TCEQ's website.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Food and Fiber Pavilion at State Fair of Texas is a Sight to See


Guest Blogger: Drew DeBerry, Deputy Agriculture Commissioner


This year marks the 39th year of the Texas Department of Agriculture’s Food and Fiber Pavilion bringing Texas products to visitors at the State Fair of Texas.

If you're in Dallas Sept. 24 - Oct. 17, I encourage you stop by the Food and Fiber Pavilion, which is sponsored by Borden. You can find items from more than 100 GO TEXAN members who are selling the best of Texas foods, clothing, gifts, leather goods and cotton products.

The State Fair is a great Texas tradition that offers fun for the whole family. Live music, fair food, an auto show and livestock competitions are just some of the great attractions at the fair. Visit the State Fair of Texas website for a schedule of events, maps and other helpful information.

We hope to see you there!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Go Out. Go Eat. GO TEXAN.


Guest Blogger: Elizabeth Hadley, Assistant Commissioner for Marketing and Promotions

Texas has a well-earned reputation for fantastic food and wine, which is why the GO TEXAN Restaurant Round-Up, presented by Farm Credit Sept. 27-Oct. 1, is such an exciting event. Not only does the weeklong, statewide dine-out event celebrate Texas restaurants, foods and wines, it also benefits local food banks, as many participating restaurants will donate a portion of proceeds to help feed hungry Texans.


Now in its third year, the Round-Up highlights Texas-grown and raised foods along with Texas wines. During the event, participating restaurants will offer food-and-wine pairings, fixed-price meals and other menu offerings featuring fresh, quality Texas ingredients. Round-Up also kicks off Texas Wine Month in October.


Make plans with your family and co-workers to enjoy a quality meal at a participating GO TEXAN Restaurant Round-Up establishment, Sept. 27-Oct. 1. To find a participating restaurant near you, visit the GO TEXAN website.

Remember: Go Out. Go Eat. GO TEXAN.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Help us Promote Texas!

We know Texas is a great state offering everything from wineries in the Hill Country to camping in Big Bend, and we want you to help us capture the attractions that make our state a shining star. The Texas Department of Agriculture is still accepting submissions for the "Texas Is…" amateur video competition.

Winning videos will be used in a promotional campaign to publicize the appeal of Texas and boost tourism. The videos may be used in TDA marketing materials, social media sites and on the TDA website.

You can submit your video online, via e-mail or by mail. But hurry, the deadline for contest entries is Oct. 31, 2010. For complete contest details and submission instructions, visit
www.TexasAgriculture.gov. You can watch a video sample here:



Send us your video and help us brag about Texas.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Moment of Pause: Remembering 9/11

Guest blogger: Drew DeBerry, Deputy Commissioner of Agriculture

Today is one of the darkest anniversaries in the history of our great nation. The shock of watching New York City’s Twin Towers fall at the hands of cowardly terrorists continues to weigh heavy on our hearts.

The nightmare is even more horrific for those families who lost loved ones at Ground Zero, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field.

Nine years after 9/11, the fallout of hatred lingers as we watch religious intolerance unfold at Ground Zero, in Florida and in our neighborhoods. Understandably, the wounds remain deep and painful.

I ask all Americans and our friends around the world today to please take a moment to remember our fallen heroes, their families and the children who must grow up in a confusing, post-9/11 world.

Today, let’s harness humility instead of hatred. Let’s remember with uncluttered clarity. Let’s pray for a more peaceful world for our children.

God bless America, God bless our fallen and God bless our troops. We will never forget 9/11.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Spoken Like a True Texan

Guest Blogger: Drew DeBerry, Texas Deputy Agriculture Commissioner

Cotton farmers in West Texas are proud to call Roger Haldenby a friend. And it's no mystery as to why based on this article he released yesterday. Although Roger's accent is anything but West Texan, the Englishman's heart is clearly at home in the cotton fields of the South Plains. Rather than adding my own words to Roger's eloquently presented perspective, please take time to read it yourself. I hope it inspires some Texas pride under your cotton shirt like it did in me. GO TEXAN!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Use science? Go figure...

Guest Blogger: Drew DeBerry, Texas Deputy Agriculture Commissioner

Americans enjoy the safest food supply in the world. Unfortunately this reality has been undermined in recent weeks with opinions and comments about the recall of several hundred million eggs from Wright County Egg farm in Iowa.

Opinions are like noses - everybody has one - and I defend everyone's right to express theirs. While any illness resulting from certain eggs is a serious issue, it is important to remember some basic realities about our food production when voicing our opinions. The food our farmers and ranchers work so hard to provide is inspected at many levels before reaching the consumer. While the number of recalled eggs may sound alarming, we need to keep in perspective that these eggs only comprise 1 percent of the eggs produced in the nation.

Additionally, universities are doing exceptional work to enhance food safety. And it would be easy for me to reference some of the great work being done at my alma mater, Texas Tech University, or at Commissioner Staples' alma mater, Texas A&M University, to highlight scientifically-based facts and guidelines that are more than a headline reaction to this serious matter.

Instead, I thought I would go to a neutral corner and give both the Aggies and Red Raiders a break today. This article by Ohio State University food safety microbiologists brings to light some important facts we all should consider during this time when our health authorities track down the root cause of this outbreak and develop even better protocols to help ensure consumers are protected. When all else fails, maybe we should base our opinions on science...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Teaming Up for Healthy After-School Snacks and Meals Made with Texas Products

Guest Blogger, Elizabeth Hadley, Assistant Commissioner for Marketing

Yesterday, we at the Texas Department of Agriculture held a joint press conference with H-E-B at the Brodie Lane store in South Austin. The event highlighted how easy it is for parents to use locally-grown and raised products when preparing healthy after-school snacks and dinner. H-E-B Chef Scott Tillman hosted a cooking demonstration in which he made delicious peanut butter, honey and banana sandwiches; watermelon, strawberry and yogurt smoothies; and queso con carne and ground turkey. You can find them here.

It was a great event that truly showed how easy it is to find Texas produce and meats and use them to create healthy after-school meals. Luckily, with all the fresh foods grown in Texas, the options for nutrition snacks and dinner are endless. Visit the Texas Produce Availability Chart to find what Texas fruits and vegetable are available by month.


With 32 percent of Texas children ages 10-17 overweight or obese, now is an important time to teach our children how to eat right - one of the main components of Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples' 3E's of Healthy Living - Education, Exercise and Eating Right. Remember, living a healthy lifestyle begins at home.

Check out video from the event:

Monday, August 23, 2010

Texas School District Finds a New Way to Get Students Excited About School Meals

Guest Blogger: Lindsay Rodgers, Deputy Assistant Commissioner for Food and Nutrition Division

Finding ways to help kids eat right is an ongoing challenge, which is why one Texas child nutrition professional is going straight to the source.

In an effort to find healthy foods that will appeal to junior high school students, Jefferson Independent School District Child Nutrition Director Terry Moore assembles a weekly taste-testing panel made up of students to sample new products and recipes at Jefferson Junior High School. Moore's initiative has generated so much excitement and enthusiasm that students consider it an honor to be randomly selected for the taste-test panel. Following each session, Moore is joined by the students for an outdoor walk to discuss the importance of healthy eating.


Additionally, Moore says she often posts pictures and new food product signs around her office door to encourage students to visit and talk about school meals. The conversation almost always leads to questions about the next taste-test panel.

I commend Moore and Jefferson I.S.D. for finding an way to get students excited about eating school meals. Her efforts are a welcome complement to TDA's 3E's of Healthy Living -- Education, Exercise and Eating Right. With additional help from parents and communities, we can partner together to overcome the challenge of helping kids eat healthy and do our part to help address childhood obesity.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Mexico Imposes Unwarranted Tariffs on U.S./Texas Products

Guest blogger, Drew DeBerry, Deputy Commissioner of Agriculture

The Lone Star State exports billions of dollars each year worth of food, fiber and other goods across its borders to countries that depend on these Texas-made products.

That's why I'm disappointed to learn that the Mexican government has now renewed significant tariffs on roughly 100 U.S. agricultural and manufactured products. These unnecessary tariffs affect up to $2.6 billion worth of U.S. goods, including Texas agricultural products such as pork, cheese, sweet corn and grapefruit.

Mexico enacted these taxes to retaliate against the U.S. after federal officials halted the implementation of a cross-border trucking agreement that was signed in NAFTA in the mid-90's.

In March 2009, Commissioner Staples wrote a letter to President Obama requesting he quickly find a resolution to the NAFTA issue in order to prevent Mexico from imposing steep tariffs on Texas products. Commissioner Staples received a response from U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk stating a compromise policy was being proposed that would meet the requirements of the NAFTA agreement. It appears Mexico got tired of waiting.

But the real issue is about safe and affordable food. United States consumers enjoy the safest, most affordable food supply in the world. Why is it that the Mexican government is so insistent on depriving its people of that bounty?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Nutrition Education Outreach Grants Awarded

Guest Blogger: Angela Olige, Assistant Commissioner for Food and Nutrition Division

As childhood obesity becomes a growing public health concern, the need for better health and nutrition education has never been greater. I'm proud to say that need is being better served following TDA's announcement today that $414,000 has been awarded to 112 Texas school campuses and community organizations. The grants will fund better health and nutrition education and outreach as TDA continues to partner with schools and other organizations to promote the 3E's of Healthy Living - Education, Exercise and Eating Right.

To see the complete list of grant recipients, go here.

To read the press release announcing this exciting news, go here.

TDA will accept another round of applications for the Nutrition Outreach Program this fall. To learn more about the Nutrition Outreach Program, visit www.TexasAgriculture.gov. You can also contact the Grants office at (512) 475-1615 or email Grants@TexasAgriculture.gov for more information.

Friday, August 13, 2010

New Tool to Connect to Agriculture Industry in West Texas

It takes teamwork to build success, which is why the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce recently launched its new website, LubbockAg.com. Designed to connect chamber members and the public with information about the area's agriculture industry, LubbockAg.com is intended to be a spot where information can be shared in an effort to enhance economic development efforts that will attract new jobs and capital investment opportunities.

Whether you need information for a research paper or contacts for Lubbock-area agriculture professionals, LubbockAg.com is a valuable tool for making connections that can help a community succeed.

Staying competitive and informed are critical in today's economic climate, which is why the Lubbock chamber's new website is a step in the right direction and a model for other Texas communities. Visit LubbockAg.com and see how Lubbock is making connections today to ensure a more prosperous tomorrow.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Meal Provider Making a Difference in Panhandle

Guest Blogger - Becky Dempsey, Deputy Assistant Commissioner of Rural Economic Development



Tri-County Meals in Quitaque, Texas is a great example of how community support and hard working volunteers can turn a great idea into an invaluable service.

Starting with just 65 home-cooked meals delivered to homebound seniors in 2004, Tri-County Meals now delivers approximately 8,000 meals per year in three Texas Panhandle counties.

And now the group has reached another milestone – the construction of a new 5,000 square-foot foodservice facility that allows Tri-County Meals to serve hot meals onsite to seniors who do not qualify for home delivered meals. One of our regional staff members attended the ribbon cutting for this facility and tells us the dining room expansion will also make room for a Food Pantry program that delivers supplies and food to people in need after emergencies. More than 100 hardworking volunteers from Quitaque, Silverton, Turkey and Flomot make the mission of Tri-County Meals possible.

The Texas Department of Agriculture is proud to partner with such devoted organizations that are committed to helping Texans in need. Through our Texans Feeding Texans programs, TDA will continue to assist those who help hungry Texans. To volunteer or learn more about Tri-County Meals call (806) 269-1275.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Two Texas Originals Team Up to Serve Texans Quality Food


Guest Blogger: Drew DeBerry, Deputy Commissioner of Agriculture


Yesterday I joined baseball legend Nolan Ryan to announce that his beef products will now be served in Black-eyed Pea restaurants. It’s great to see these two GO TEXAN members partnering to bring consumers quality Texas food.


Through the GO TEXAN marketing program, we at the Texas Department of Agriculture are committed to helping consumers identify Texas products and the retailers and restaurants that offer them. We know Texas produces some of the best food products you can find, and with the help of GO TEXAN members like Nolan Ryan’s Beef and the Black-eyed Pea, consumers can now find them closer to home.

Visit www.TexasAgriculture.gov to find a GO TEXAN restaurant near you. And don’t forget to dine at one of those establishments the week of Sept. 27-Oct. 1 during the GO TEXAN Restaurant Round-Up – the only statewide dine out event where Texans can invest in their local businesses and charities.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Conference to Help Enhance School Meals and Child Nutrition

Guest Blogger: Angela Olige, Assistant Commissioner for Food and Nutrition Division

In an ongoing effort to promote healthy eating habits to Texas schoolchildren, the Texas Department of Agriculture hosted a booth at the School Nutrition Association's annual national conference in Dallas, July 11-14. School nutrition professionals from across the nation attended to share ideas and best practices for improving child nutrition, while also learning about new foods available to school districts and students, grades K-12.

White House chef Sam Kass made a special appearance and presented a healthy cooking demonstration.

Overall, the conference was a great educational experience and served to promote the 3E's of Healthy Living -- Education, Exercise and Eating Right!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Tourism Tips offered for Texas Communities

Guest Blogger: Becky Dempsey, Deputy Assistant Commissioner for Rural Economic Development

As most city leaders will tell you, tourism is a vital component to their community's well-being. As such, the Texas Department of Agriculture is committed and ready to assist Texas communities with developing strategies that can help boost tourism.

The agency has partnered with the Texas Travel Industry Association (TTIA) for a round of workshops called the "Regional Tourism Series." The series was developed to teach Texas communities how to build and sustain local tourism.

Through the series, communities can learn how to develop a community brand while building an effective website – all from presenters who have already done it.

The series continues this summer and fall in Lufkin, Bandera and Abilene. For more information, check the TTIA website at www.ttia.org.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Rural Texas Communities Going the Extra Mile

Guest blogger: Rick Rhodes, Assistant Commissioner for Economic Development

Rural tourism throughout Texas is a growing trend. Whether shopping for antiques or visiting a farm or ranch operation, Texas offers plenty of opportunities for getting away.

Some rural Texas communities are going the extra mile to attract more tourists.
Levelland, for example, is a certified GO TEXAN Rural Community that is breaking ground on a new event center. The Mallet Event Center & Arena will host events such as rodeos, fairs and conferences that are sure to bring extra tourism dollars to Levelland.

On Wednesday, July 28, the public and community leaders will hold a groundbreaking for the new center. Below is a photo of what the event center will look like once it's completed. Congratulations to Levelland for promoting rural tourism.


For more information on becoming a GO TEXAN Certified Rural Community, visit www.TexasAgriculture.gov and click on Retire in Texas.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Property Rights at Stake Along Neches River

Guest blogger: Drew DeBerry, Deputy Commissioner of Agriculture

You've most likely heard the clichĂ©, "don’t believe everything you hear." Well, in the case of the Neches River, this overused notion holds true.

In a recent move to energize an old effort to designate the Neches River a National Wild and Scenic River, misinformation is being distributed to the public. The false selling point in this effort implies that a wild and scenic river designation would protect landowners from condemnation for the construction of reservoirs. Supporters of the designation also claim that the Texas Forestry Association and the Texas Farm Bureau are, or would be, involved in overseeing the designation and plans designed to maintain the Neches in its natural state.

The truth is the Texas Forestry Association and the Texas Farm Bureau are both opposed to designating the Neches River a National Wild and Scenic River. Both organizations recently published articles that highlight the true repercussions of such a classification, which essentially amounts to a federal threat to private property owners' rights. With this designation, the arms of federal agencies and other groups are extended to control lands that border upon, are adjacent to or are otherwise included in the river. As such, these entities would be free to prevent development on private land by deeming such actions as harmful to the river.

With private property ownership rights at stake, I encourage you to read more about the true implications of the National Wild and Scenic River designation by visiting the Texas Forestry Association and the Texas Farm Bureau.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Camp Wesley Shows Kids the 3E's of Healthy Living


Guest Blogger Veronica Obregon, Chief Communications Officer

I visited Camp Wesley in San Antonio last week with Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples to kick off the second session of their Summer Nutrition Programs - federally funded programs that offer free meals in the summer to children who typically rely on the free or reduced priced meals served during the school year.

Camp Wesley is just one of more than 4,600 sites across Texas participating in the Summer Nutrition Programs. While the programs are a great resource to alleviating hunger during the summer, they are only a temporary solution. People do not choose to be hungry, and the reality is that there is usually a bigger problem in food insecure households - such as unemployment, low salaries, etc. To truly end hunger in Texas, we must connect families with opportunities such as education and job training that will help them become self-sustaining.

A nice thing to note about many of the locations sponsoring the Summer Nutrition Programs is that they actually provide more than just free nutritious meals. At Camp Wesley, for instance, they also offer educational activities and physical fitness challenges. This three-pronged approach to being healthy is exactly what Commissioner Staples has been encouraging schools and kids to adopt through his initiative the 3E's of Healthy Living - Education, Exercise and Eating Right.

Thank you to the folks at Camp Wesley, and other sponsors across the state, for helping us at the Texas Department of Agriculture fight hunger and obesity in Texas.

Friday, July 9, 2010

New Slogan for Granbury ISD School Breakfast Program



Guest Blogger: Angela Olige, Assistant Commissioner for Food and Nutrition

“Shimbermetimbers! This food is good” will be the new slogan for the Granbury ISD school breakfast program.

Jamie Bebbe, a first-grader at Acton Elementary School, submitted the winning entry in a slogan contest held during National School Breakfast Week earlier this year. The drawing will be featured on the elementary menu calendar this coming fall. She also received a portable Playstation donated by sponsor, General Mills.

By hosting this contest, Granbury ISD has exemplified how to engage students to participate in their school meal program, which follows strict nutritional guidelines as set forth in the Texas Public School Nutrition Policy and provides its students nutritious meals.

At the Texas Department of Agriculture, Commissioner Todd Staples has created an initiative called the 3E's of Healthy Living - Education, Exercise and Eating Right. Under this initiative, we developed "Texans Bring It!" This call to action asks students of all ages, "What do you bring to your life to be healthy?" It's safe to say Jamie Bebbe has got the right answer!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

What is Sustainable

Guest Blogger: Drew DeBerry, Deputy Commissioner of Agriculture

What level of food production and efficiency is necessary to truly sustain a world population that is expected to grow by three billion people by 2050? The answer depends on how you define "sustain."

A recent article from Go San Angelo reports growing numbers of anti-agriculture activists are quick to claim the word "sustainable" to exclusively define organic and small farming operations, but the reality is agriculture in ALL its forms, by definition, "sustains." Large farms actually sustain more people. As a matter of fact, only 10 percent of our nation's farms (with $250,000 or more in sales) are responsible for providing 85 percent of America's food and fiber supply. So let's not confuse buzzwords and definitions. To do so is to compare the proverbial apples to oranges.

While it's foolish to discredit small farms and the organic movement (in fact, they are deserving of much applause), it is equally unrealistic to think their methods and production outputs - however well intended - can wholly sustain the planet's impending population explosion.

To quote the article, “If we continue to allow propaganda to trump science, then the potential for global agriculture to be productive, diverse and sustainable will go unfulfilled. We will not be the ones to suffer the direct consequences, but rather the poorest and most vulnerable,”

Additionally, our farmers and ranchers are the true environmentalists. They know they have to protect their land and animals in order to have a productive operation. And for consumers, it's this simple - we all enjoy being sustained by an affordable, abundant and safe food supply.

Remember, political agendas can be argued and debated. World hunger, on the other hand, cannot.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

A Salute to the Fourth of July

There is no finer country on earth than the land of the free and the home of the brave, as so eloquently described in Francis Scott Key's "Star-Spangled Banner." Since gaining independence from Great Britain in 1776, the United States has stood for 234 years as the unrivaled symbol of freedom, independence, diversity and possibility.

Thanks to our founding fathers and a history of heroic patriots, we are free to pursue our dreams, raise our children as we see fit and know peace on our soil. We are free from tyrants, servitude and oppression. We are free from religious persecution, government censorship and the kind of anarchy and poverty that leaves much of the world living in fear.

As we gather with family and friends today to celebrate the Fourth of July, let's also take a moment to count our blessings and salute our soldiers. Independence was not handed to us, nor is it granted immunity from evil and ill will. Independence is declared, won and maintained through sacrifice, strength and courage.

While we enjoy the fireworks, barbecues and parades that are symbolic of the Fourth of July, let us also be reminded that the Star-Spangled Banner still gallantly waves today thanks to innumerable American sacrifices. God bless America, God bless our troops and Happy Fourth of July.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Providing Parallel Pathways to Success and Taking Personal Responsibility

A recent Houston Chronicle article titled, "Poverty, dropout rates bode grim future for state," calls attention to an ever-increasing problem not only in Texas, but also throughout the country - namely, the lack of an educated workforce and the negative consequences to not only affected individuals, but also to our entire economy.

With our increasing population and a rising number of students not taking advantage of our formal education system, alarm bells should be sounding in boardrooms and living rooms across Texas.

At TDA, our economic development team has been working for the past three years on solutions to this tremendous challenge. One such solution is offering Parallel Pathways to Success. This initiative stems from the reality that while a four-year college degree may be the ultimate goal, many students are not on that path. Tangible alternatives that provide parallel pathways are needed to capture students' imaginations, enhance skills and earning capacity, and ultimately fan the flames of productivity and independence that help foster personal responsibility. At TDA, we have provided incentives to public schools that offer students an alternate path to the workforce through career and technical training. Alternate education options with visible, career-enhancing results are clearly more favorable than dropping out.

On top of a dropout problem, Texas, like other states, also struggles with food-insecurity, obesity and underachievement. These issues are not isolated or unrelated, and there are successful programs available to help combat these problems. Ultimately, however, it all boils down to personal responsibility. Government cannot mandate solutions to these problems - the solutions start at home.

Meeting rooms in Washington and Texas do not have all the answers. Our nation's living rooms must provide true leadership and our schools and local businesses must provide partnerships for improving our workforce. Let's make certain our educational programs provide parallel pathways to success, while also making it clear that success is the goal, high standards are our expectations, and Texans will not settle for less.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Governor Briscoe leaves a legacy as big as Texas

The Lone Star State and Texas agriculture lost a loyal and distinguished friend Sunday with the passing of former Governor Dolph Briscoe.
 
Born into a ranching and oil family, Gov. Briscoe served as Texas governor from 1973-1979. Among his many accomplishments in agriculture, Gov. Briscoe served as the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association President, helped eradicate the threat of screwworm and was pivotal in developing the farm-to-market system of paved roads. As a politician, Gov. Briscoe championed government transparency and reform.
 
A native of Uvalde and a UT Longhorn, Briscoe was as Texan as they come. I want to offer my personal condolences to the Briscoe family, and I know I can speak for all in the agriculture industry when I say thank you to Gov. Briscoe for his many groundbreaking accomplishments and the lasting legacy he leaves behind.

Supreme Court makes the correct call and protects our right to bear arms

The United States Supreme Court made it clear today, the right to keep and bear arms is a fundamental constitutional right that cannot be revoked or infringed upon.
 
I applaud this decision by the Court to strike down a ban on handguns in Chicago. The ruling protects the principles of our founding fathers while also allowing us to protect ourselves. After all, personal defense is key to personal liberty  and banning gun ownership would only disarm responsible, law-abiding citizens.
 
Although our constitution has protected responsible gun ownership since the day our country was founded, the right to bear arms continues to fall under attack. Today’s ruling narrowly protected our gun rights by a 5-4 split decision.
 
This ruling preserves one of our basic rights as Americans - namely the right to protect our families and ourselves. Furthermore, this decision ensures government does not overstep its bounds by meddling in our personal freedoms. I salute our five Supreme Court justices who understand the Second Amendment is one of the cornerstones that our nation is built upon.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day to All the Super Dads

Guest Blogger - Janet Staples, Commissioner Staples' wife

There is good reason why great fathers are often compared to superheroes. In a child's eyes there is nobody bigger, stronger or faster than Daddy. He can magically assemble Barbie's dream house, squash the scariest bug and get stickers out of little feet faster than a speeding bullet.



As I grew older, Daddy taught me the value of a dollar, respect for my elders and confidence in myself. He helped me with my homework and always had the answers. He believed in my talents and abilities and gave me the foundation for the work I do today.

Even now as an adult, Daddy's wisdom still guides me. He instilled in me a love of country and a sense of values for which I am very grateful. He walks a little slower now, but that wit and sense of humor haven't dimmed one bit. And I still think he can leap tall buildings in a single bound.



On this Father's Day I say thank you to all the great men (like my Dad) who make the world a better place by being good fathers - and superheroes - to their sons and daughters. Happy Father's Day.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Texas Seafood is Still Safe to Eat!!!

Guest Blogger - Elizabeth Hadley, assistant commissioner for marketing

Ever since the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster hit the Gulf waters near Louisiana, consumers have questioned the safety of Texas seafood. At the Texas Department of Agriculture we have been working diligently to set the record straight about our seafood. Through various coordination activities with industry and fellow government agencies, coupled with outreach to restaurants, retailers, wholesalers and media, we are reminding consumers that Texas waters remain uncontaminated by the spill and that Texas seafood is still safe to eat.

On Thursday, a group of us from TDA ate lunch at Quality Seafood in Austin. Upon walking in, I was thrilled to see this GO TEXAN member proudly display the materials we created for this exact purpose. And I can't say enough about the selection of Texas seafood. We all enjoyed our lunch and were happy to see Texas consumers enjoying safe and high quality Texas seafood.
Thanks again to Quality Seafood for remaining committed to supporting Texas seafood producers, and serving Texans the best our state has to offer.

Remember - GO out. GO Eat. GO TEXAN.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

New Texas Map Identifies Areas in Texas Lacking Critical Broadband Services

On Wednesday, with the assistance of Connected Texas and the Public Utility Commission, I released a new and unprecedented map that clearly identifies which parts of Texas still do not have access to broadband services. This interactive map should prove to be a useful tool in determining coverage availability, providers and pricing, in much the same way the power-to-choose site helps consumers in selecting their electrical service provider.

The map, which includes data from 123 broadband providers, indicates that approximately 96 percent of Texas households have access to home broadband service; however, a quarter of a million households in the Lone Star State — more than all of the households in Vermont — lack access to this critical broadband service. In terms of landmass, 45 percent of the state is not covered by home broadband service.


Not having access to broadband services in the 21st century poses a challenge for rural communities in Texas that we know are losing educational, medical and economic development opportunities and services due to a lack of high-speed Internet. By pinpointing the unserved areas, public and private industry projects can be developed that will lead to connecting all of Texas.

I'd like to encourage all Texans to view the map and assist us with validating the collected information. Visit www.connectedtx.org to participate. Together, we can make sure no Texan is left behind on the information superhighway.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Battling Childhood Hunger is a Collaborative Effort

Guest Blogger - Deputy Commissioner Drew DeBerry

I spent some time yesterday with the kids at the Boys and Girls Club in South Austin where we at the Texas Department of Agriculture are partnering with the Capital Area Food bank (CAFB) to deliver federally-funded, free meals to children, many of whom do not know where their next meal is coming from.

It was rewarding to hear one child, Joseph, explain the values of the meals to him. Through his humorous description of himself as the "good-looking one" out of him and his twin brother, it was impossible to overlook the sincerity and impact these programs have on his family. I also enjoyed talking with Joe, Matthew, Mario, Stephanie and so many other thankful children who are solid reminders of why we do what we do.


We must remember that all Texans benefit from a healthy state, and that's why it's imperative we change our No. 1 national ranking in childhood food insecurity. Through Commissioner Staples' Mayors Challenge and with the help of organizations like the CAFB and the Boys and Girls Club, we can raise awareness of these federally funded, free meals and bridge the hunger gap in Texas.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Thanks to San Juan Mayor Contreras, and Others, for Helping Feed Hungry Kids

Today my travels took me to Reed and Mock Elementary in San Juan where Mayor Pedro Contreras joined State Sen. Eddie Lucio and me in an effort to feed hungry children.

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples visits Reed and Mock Elementary in San Juan to talk about the importance of feeding Texas children during the summer.

Mayor Contreras has accepted the Texas Department of Agriculture's statewide Mayors Challenge, which is aimed at increasing awareness about TDA's Summer Nutrition Programs that provide for children who rely on school meals for daily nourishment. The Pharr - San Juan - Alamo ISD, with Imelda Palacios as its Child Nutrition Program director, is working closely with Mayor Contreras and already seems to be doing an excellent job feeding children in need.

But we must continue to do more across the entire state. During the school year, Texas schools serve an average 2.1 million meals daily for free or reduced prices to children from low-income families. By contrast during the summer, fewer than 322,000 lunches are served at no cost each day. These are not good numbers for a state that ranks No.1 for food-insecure children.

Unfortunately, closing the summertime hunger gap in Texas is not our only challenge. We also must increase opportunities for families to become more self-sufficient through higher education and better job opportunities. All Texans benefit from a hunger-free state, and with help from community leaders like Mayor Contreras, we are taking steps to sustain our neighbors in need so they can focus on pursuing long-term financial independence.

Again, I applaud and thank Mayor Contreras and other statewide mayors who are helping direct children in their communities toward nutritious summertime meals. To find a summer feeding site in your community, visit www.squaremeals.org or call 211.