Thursday, September 29, 2011

Inspector General Exposes EPA’s Disregard for Scientific Protocol

A report issued this week by the EPA’s inspector general uncovers that costly greenhouse gas regulations were hastily instituted against standard protocol. Why am I not surprised?

As you may recall, Gov. Perry and I challenged these greenhouse regulations in February 2010 on behalf of farmers, ranchers and other industry workers who stood to be priced out of business, rendered uncompetitive or left unemployed by bureaucratic corner cutting. Even in the best of economic times, I will not stand by and watch jobs be lost to reckless politics and a blatant disregard for standard practices.

This is yet further proof that President Obama’s ongoing environmental regulatory takeover is based on agenda-driven political science. Sound science, accountability and sound judgment should always be the standard by which our decisions are made; after all, American jobs are on the line.

To read the inspector general’s report, go here.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Border Security Gets Military Perspective

In an effort to protect U.S. citizens from spillover cartel violence while continuing to emphasize the critical need for enhanced Texas/Mexico border security, I was joined yesterday at the Capitol by retired General Barry McCaffrey and retired Major-General Robert Scales as we released “Texas Border Security: A Strategic Military Assessment.” The independent study, which offers a military perspective of our border vulnerability, was co-authored by the generals and unveiled as part of the Protect Your Texas Border Summit at the Capitol.

video

To read the generals’ assessment in its entirety, go here.

To read my opinion on this issue in the Austin American-Statesman, go here.

Friday, September 23, 2011

East Texas Timber Losses Add to Wildfire Toll

Texas is fortunate to have wide-open prairies and tall wooded forests, but unfortunately both have suffered tremendous losses in the wake of the drought and wildfires. According to the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, agricultural losses associated with the drought were estimated at more than $5 billion a few weeks ago.

More recently, the Texas Forest Service estimated $97 million worth of timber has been lost in the ongoing East Texas wildfires.

When you factor in additional economic losses resulting from irretrievable harvesting and homebuilding efforts,that number gets much bigger. In fact, according to the National Association of Homebuilders, the timber lost is comparable to enough lumber to frame nearly 147,000 homes measuring 2,400 square feet.

Texas has been deeply scarred by this devastating round of drought and wildfires, but we cannot surrender in defeat. Please continue to pray for rain and support our farmers, ranchers and other citizens who must not go it alone on the road to recovery. Rebuilding their livelihoods benefits us all.

Meanwhile, be sure to thank our courageous firefighters who are battling on the frontlines to mitigate the losses. Their efforts are truly heroic.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Let’s Get the Hogs Outta Texas!

Bigger is not always better in Texas, which is why I traveled to Beaumont today to issue the Hog Out Challenge to all Texans.

Here in the Lone Star State, our feral hog population numbers 2.6 million and causes more than $500 million in damages annually. Those are big numbers that add up to a big problem.

To curb this problem, I’ve declared that October is Hog Out Month in Texas. Every day is a good day to do your part in eliminating these pests from Texas’ urban and rural yards, highways, golf courses, farms and ranches. But the only way to win this war on feral hogs is for all Texans to join in a coordinated and concentrated effort. Hog Out Month provides this opportunity.

Additionally, Hog Out Month marks the kickoff of the Texas Department of Agriculture’s second annual Hog Out Challenge, which runs through Dec. 31 and awards grants to the five Texas counties with the most hogs removed and the highest participation in feral hog abatement programs.

More than a costly nuisance to agricultural operations and wildlife habitats, feral hogs increasingly are finding their way into urban areas and destroying yards, public parks and golf courses. They also pose a health threat to humans as they can carry disease and cause serious automobile accidents. Making matters worse, these hogs are capable of breeding twice a year.

Counties may obtain a notice of intent to participate in the Hog Out Challenge by clicking here, calling (512) 463-6695 or emailing Grants@TexasAgriculture.gov. More details about the challenge can be found by clicking here. Deadline to submit intent to participate is Sept. 30.

If you’re a landowner or homeowner who wants to learn more about eliminating feral hogs from Texas, contact your local Texas Agrilife Extension Service office. Let’s tackle Texas’ big feral hog problem. Let’s get the hogs outta Texas!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Economy and Jobs Need Regulatory Stability

The economy can withstand good news and bad news, but it cannot withstand uncertainty. In fact, uncertainty is the enemy of growth.

This is a basic principle, but seems to be overlooked by many in Washington today. Below are links that demonstrate how regulatory uncertainty is putting American jobs and our energy supply at risk.

At a time when our businesses and families are struggling with unprecedented unemployment, leaders should be focused on removing obstacles to job creation, not creating roadblocks and continued chaos.

Regulatory uncertainty hampers domestic nuclear production http://www.caller.com/news/2011/sep/17/regulatory-uncertainty-hampers-domestic-nuclear/

Luminant sues EPA, says it will shut two coal units, cut 500 jobs http://fuelfix.com/blog/2011/09/12/luminant-sues-epa-says-two-coal-plants-will-close/

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Texas Agriculture Wins Support at NASDA

Guest Blogger: Drew DeBerry, Deputy Agriculture Commissioner

On behalf of Commissioner Todd Staples this week, I am proud to be in Salt Lake City representing Texas at the annual National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) meeting.

Each year, NASDA brings together the heads of our nation’s agricultural agencies to present priorities important to their respective communities. Those priorities are then presented as action items with the intent of working collectively to bolster the nation’s agriculture industry.

This year, Commissioner Staples brought action items on the the following four initiatives to the table on behalf of Texas agriculture: jobs and the economy; hay assistance; endangered species reform; and border security. These four resolutions were unanimously supported today by members of the Southern Association of State Departments of Agriculture (SASDA), and will now be considered by various committees within NASDA and voted on by all states on Monday.

Texas is fighting through the one of the worst droughts on record with agricultural losses already reaching $5.2 billion. The extreme heat has also fueled wildfires that have scorched more than 3 million acres, exacerbating the need to expedite hay delivery to those in need, which is why I’m pleased to see Commissioner Staples’ hay assistance resolution moving forward.

Also of great concern to Texans is the increasing violence against our citizens and agricultural producers at the hands of Mexican drug cartels. At NASDA, we introduced a resolution focused on securing our border, ending illegal immigration and urging a reform of labor programs to provide a documented and reliable workforce.

Another initiative that won support aims to strengthen our economy through passage of pending free trade agreements and stabilization of the uncertain regulatory environment that stands in the way of job creation.

Finally, Texas remains committed to striking a balance between conservation and the rights of private property owners. SASDA members enthusiastically joined Texas in proposing a comprehensive overhaul to the sprawling Endangered Species Act - to bring sound science guidelines to the table.

Besides being a forum for the advancement of agriculture, NASDA also reminds me how blessed we all are to have leaders throughout our country working collaboratively to strengthen agriculture for the benefit of all Americans.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Home of the Brave

The goal of bravery is to overcome. The goal of terrorism is to reign terror on those they wish to defeat - to instill long-term, sustained terror and to make the world a darker place. While America was attacked on 9/11 like never before, and the images of chaos and horror will haunt us forever, we will not allow our country to live in terror. We will celebrate those who overcame.

This weekend, the mother of a victim of Flight 93 said her son and others had 15 minutes to destroy a terrorist plan that was years in the making, and they did. The pride in her eyes, the strength in her voice reminds us all that on that day there were heroes. Heroes who stopped a plane from potentially destroying another symbol of America. Heroes who saved lives and gave their lives in the burning buildings. Heroes who lived to tell the story and show the terrorists America was not defeated.

Yes, evil lurks among us; we are not naive. But today is not a day to remember the sinister. Today is a day to remember the patriots, the heroes, those brave men and women who are gone and prove they are not forgotten, and to celebrate those who carry on. Ten years have passed. Memories are rekindled. Americans remain proud of our heroes, proud of our country, and proud to be called the land of the free and home of the brave.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Federal Disaster Declaration Approved for Bastrop County

A federal disaster declaration has been approved for Bastrop County. This opens up the opportunity for homeowners who have lost everything to apply for aid.

For more information please click here. We continue to keep families impacted by the recent fires in our prayers and will work to bring assistance to all of those Texans who are suffering from this worst-ever fire season.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Latest Wildfires Add to Devastating Tally

As smoke clouds another sunrise today, our hearts and prayers continue to be with our neighbors and firefighters across Texas who are struggling with the devastating burst of weekend wildfires that claimed hundreds of homes.

These families will need our material, financial and emotional support as they salvage what remains of their possessions. To help with donations, go here. For those who can help with livestock care and supplies, go here.

While it’s still too early to tally the latest losses, early estimates indicate more than 500 homes have been destroyed in Bastrop County. Another 30 or more have been lost in a separate blaze in Travis County’s Steiner Ranch neighborhood. West of Austin near Spicewood, 65 homes have been destroyed and in Leander approximately 13 homes have been lost.

Near my home in East Texas, a number of blazes broke out and, as we post this blog, the Texas Forest Service reports fires continue to burn or threaten homes in Montgomery, Waller, Walker, Grimes, Caldwell, Marion and Cass counties.

This latest round of devastation comes at a time when it seemed news of Texas wildfires could not get worse. Since the beginning of wildfire season, local and state firefighters have responded to more than 20,900 fires that have destroyed more than 3,000 structures and burned more than 3.6 million acres.

As Gov. Perry seeks federal assistance, I ask that you pray for our fellow Texans and continue to pray for rain. Meanwhile, keep out of harm’s way, obey the orders of law enforcement and fire officials, and please consider donating time and money to those who need it.


Monday, September 5, 2011

Hard Work Keeps Texas Strong

Texans have always had a strong work ethic, which is why we’ve weathered the current economic turmoil better than most states. As we celebrate Labor Day, I’d like to salute all the fine folks who wake up every day and contribute your labors to our society. Your initiative, pride and sense of self-worth are what drives our economy and makes Texas a leader. Your example also shows our children the importance of being a productive member of society – which in turn, strengthens the future of our great state.

Times are tough, no doubt about it. Good folks are in difficult situations through no fault of their own. Many are faced with downsizing, pay cuts and other challenges that call for renewed vigor and creative solutions.

Fortunately in Texas, there is a silver lining. A recent USA Today article reported Texas recently surpassed New York to become the nation’s second-largest economy during the past decade. That dramatic distinction is no doubt due to Texans’ inherent work ethic, as well as our business-friendly environment, fair regulations and low taxes.

These favorable attributes recently helped inspire a new Texas Department of Agriculture program called Jobs For Texas, or J4T. This innovative new program fits the needs of Texas small businesses by enabling investors and private entrepreneurs to make market-driven decisions to grow jobs.

The J4T program also recently won a $46.5 million national award under the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI). These funds will be used to enhance economic development and private investment in Texas by helping small businesses grow and create jobs through loan guarantees and a venture capital program.

If you have a job, respect it and keep working hard for our economic recovery. If you do not have a job, stay positive and don’t give up. That great job is right around the corner and it’s essential to continue the job search on behalf of yourself, your family and our economy. Happy Labor Day, everyone.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Enhanced Protections for Consumers at the Fuel Pump



As Texas drivers prepare for the holiday weekend, I was pleased to travel to Houston and Dallas today where I introduced a series of program enhancements to put consumers in the driver’s seat when it comes to getting what they pay for at the fuel pump.

A new consumer information sticker is now required to be placed on all Texas fuel pumps and links consumers to a new mobile website, www.TexasAgriculture.gov/fuel, via their smartphones. From there, they can view pump inspection history and submit on-site complaints about the fuel station directly to the Texas Department of Agriculture if they suspect they are being shortchanged when topping off their tanks.

Additionally, retailers operating non-compliant pumps will now be fined up to $5,000 and have their fuel devices tagged out-of-order. Along with doubling, quadrupling or increasing penalties as much as tenfold, a new zero-tolerance policy also eliminates any grace period for those retailers failing to register their pumps.

Fortunately, 93 percent of all Texas retail fuel pumps registered with the Texas Department of Agriculture are found to be compliant with the laws. This new sticker, website and penalty structure are aimed at those bad apples that cheat Texas drivers out of their hard-earned money and cheat businesses in their own industry out of fair competition.

Travel safely this Labor Day weekend and go with peace of mind knowing you can now take action to ensure true value for your dollar at the pump.