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.