Tuesday, September 30, 2008

GO TEXAN Restaurant Round-Up- Tomorrow!

In an effort to help local food banks serve a growing number of Texas families, I ask all Texans to dine out on Wednesday, Oct. 1 as part of the GO TEXAN Restaurant Round-Up, presented by Farm Credit.

The inaugural event celebrates restaurants that serve fresh, local ingredients and quality Texas foods. I’m also proud to announce that many of the day’s proceeds will benefit Texas food banks in support of the Texas Department of Agriculture’s Texans Feeding Texans initiative. I will enjoy breakfast, lunch, and dinner tomorrow at GO TEXAN Restaurants and hope other Texans will join me in doing the same.

I announced the GO TEXAN Restaurant Round-Up at a news conference today. You can watch the announcement, plus get a tour of the Capital Area Food Bank here:

For a complete list of participating statewide restaurants, news updates and other information about the event, visit www.GOTEXANRestaurantRoundUp.com.

In addition, the GO TEXAN Restaurant Round-Up serves to kick off Texas Wine Month in October.

Remember – Go Out, Go Eat, GO TEXAN.

Monday, September 29, 2008

State Fair of Texas Highlights

If you are looking for high-energy exhibits, hundreds of quality Texas products, cooking demonstrations and other exciting special events, then I recommend visiting TDA's Food and Fiber Pavilion at the Texas State Fair, presented by Borden.

The State Fair of Texas is going on until Oct. 19. Click HERE for a full calendar of events at the pavilion.
Fairgoers love to experience the world of Texas agriculture firsthand. This opening week offers terrific opportunities to do just that.

Here is a look of the highlights for the first week of the fair at the pavillion:
  • You'll love these animal ambassadors! Straight from the Wild Wonders Outreach Program at the Fort Worth Zoo, birds of prey, small mammals, reptiles and other outdoor friends will visit the Pavilion. Visitors will mix, mingle, meet and greet the animals. There's educational fun for all ages. Noon-2 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 1.

  • In the mood for a great meal? Southwest Dairy Farmers and the Texas Beef Council will partner together and entertain fairgoers with exciting beef and dairy cooking demos. Noon-2 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 30 and Thursday, Oct 2.

  • Tap your feet, harmonize and join in as the Cabaret Sweet Adeline Quartet regales the crowd with cabaret tunes. The group consists of Patty, Pam, Donna and Holly - four women from four different states - singing for your enjoyment. Noon-2 p.m. and 4-6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 3.

  • Enjoy the culinary show of Molly Fowler, the Dining Diva, as she displays her GO TEXAN cooking skill with live demos. A traveling culinary instructor, television personality and cookbook author, Fowler shares her secrets with ease and flair. Noon-2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 4; 4-6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 5.

  • Stop by and say hello to fairground favorite Borden's Elsie the Cow, who returns to the Pavilion promoting the goodness of dairy products. Also, rock out with Radio Disney as it broadcasts live from the Pavilion. 2 p.m.-4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 5.

  • Kids can't get enough of the engaging musical duo The Biscuit Brothers. Their television program The Biscuit Brothers, produced in Austin, won a Lone Star Emmy for best children's programming in 2006. Come sing along to the catchy (and educational) Biscuit music in the Texas Beef Council Exhibit. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 5.

  • Country singer Haley Reynolds, the Dairy Festival Queen of Hopkins County, dazzles visitors on the Southwest Dairy Farmers Gazebo Stage. Noon-2 p.m. Monday, Oct. 6.

  • Toast a taste of Texas good cheer at the State Fair of Texas Wine Garden, presented by Kroger and sponsored by TDA. This week, representatives from Fall Creek Vineyards in the Hill Country, Llano Estacado Winery on the High Plains, Haak Vineyards on the Gulf Coast and Pleasant Hill Winery in Brenham are just some of the people on hand in the Wine Garden to help teach the story of Texas wineries and wines. Visitors will discover and meet the people who have put the Lone Star State on the worldwide winemaking map.

See you there!

Friday, September 26, 2008

“Texas” showcased at GO TEXAN Food and Fiber Pavilion

Click photo to activate slideshow of the Fair Foods and Find Wine event

I’ve always known there was something special about the Lone Star State, and at the State of Fair of Texas you are able to truly experience the spirit of those who make our state unique.
On Thursday I kicked off the Fair activities at the Fair Foods and Fine Wine event held in the GO TEXAN Food and Fiber Pavilion.

The event celebrated Texas foods and wines and showcased one-of-a-kind creations. From watermelon salsa and raspberry/jalapeno jelly to succulent steak quesadillas and Texas wines, the Food and Fiber Pavilion gives visitors a true taste of Texas. It’s definitely a stop you should plan to make on an empty stomach!
And those who want to get a jump-start on holiday gift shopping need to stop by the Texas Monthly Mercantile Store and Pioneer Brand General Store.

GO TEXAN members have displayed hundreds of unique items such as domino necklaces and tasty treats made from original recipes.
Best of all are the Texans who have worked so hard to see their dreams become reality. These are men and women from all walks of life, but with one thing in common – they are all GO TEXAN members.

I’m so proud of our GO TEXAN program in that it helps Texans promote their designs and products.
The State Fair of Texas runs through October 19. Take your family out there, and stop by the GO TEXAN Food and Fiber Pavilion for a tantalizing taste of our great state.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Aerial Tour with Houston Astros Player Carlos Lee

Today I traveled to Houston where Astros left fielder Carlos Lee, his wife Mary, and I took an aerial tour of the area damaged by Hurricane Ike. The storm’s impact on agriculture is staggering, with direct and indirect losses totaling several hundred million dollars. Many producers are left with croplands that will not be productive for one to possibly two years. Others have lost their entire operations, possibly forever. We need to do what we can to assist these Texans.

Lee raises Brahman cattle on his Texas ranch, and feels a strong connection to other agricultural producers. He says after viewing the massive destruction up close, he understands the hardships his fellow ranchers and the Texas agriculture industry now face.

"It's one thing to see it on the news and a whole different thing to see it live," Lee said. "It was hard. As a rancher I understand it's not easy to be in the cattle business. A lot of cattle are dead. Some people are coming back and seeing that all they worked for is destroyed."
Lee wants to help agricultural producers get back on their feet and he demonstrated his commitment by donating $25,000 to assist Texas farmer and ranchers as they recover.

Last week, I made an official request to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for assistance with future agricultural and rural restoration. While I’m hopeful Texans will receive federal assistance, Lee and I both ask you to take action now and help the people who put food on our tables and clothes on our backs – our fellow farmers and ranchers.

I want to remind everyone that a foundation has been created through the Texas AgriLife Extension Service to help fund some of the recovery efforts. To donate, visit agrilifevents.tamu.edu.

The Texas Farm Bureau has posted some pictures of Hurricane Ike’s devastation on its Web site to further demonstrate the need for your help. Click here to see the photos.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Slideshow from Aerial Tour of Hurricane Ike Damage

Click photo to view the slideshow of my aerial tour of Jefferson and Chambers counties last week:

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Texans Answer the Call for Assistance

No matter what we as Texans face, we always manage to pull through – together. This couldn’t be truer than in Chambers and Jefferson counties where efforts continue to save livestock.

Since Monday, when I asked Texans to help their neighbors by donating hay to feed hungry cattle and horses, we have received almost 4000 round bales and about 2000 more are being offered. This is truly incredible, and I thank all of you who have stepped up to the plate.

Texans have also come through on monetary donations. The Texas AgriLife Extension Service foundation has received almost $100,000 in funds. These monies will be used to continue relief efforts and assist producers in reestablishing their operations.

We have also had many ranchers offer their land for grazing. Between Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers and the Texas Department of Agriculture, we have been offered around 5,000 acres of pasture.

Our next step in this recovery process is contracting livestock haulers to help move cattle out of the devastated area. We are working with the Livestock Marketing Association and the state’s cattle associations to complete this task.

Finally, there is some good news out of the Farm Service Agency. Farmers and ranchers in counties affected by Hurricane Ike who were attempting to meet the Sept. 16 deadline for certain disaster assistance programs, but couldn't due to Hurricane-related temporary FSA office closures, now have an extension.
For more information contact FSA toll free by calling 1-866-680-6069 or visit www.fsa.usda.gov.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Helpful Phone Numbers and Links

Restoration and recovery efforts continue in Southeast Texas today following the devastation of Hurricane Ike. Below are some helpful phone numbers and links for those who would like to make a donation, or for those producers who need help:


AgriLife Extention Service
Call the Chambers County AgriLife Extension Office if you are an agriculture producer in need of food, water or transport for your livestock.

Texas Animal Health Commission
(800) 550-8242, ext. 296
If you have general livestock or animal health questions, contact the Texas Animal Health Commission.

Natural Resources Conservation Service

(979) 846-0757, ext. 3
Call the Natural Resources Conservation Service if you need help disposing of animal carcasses left in the wake of Hurricane Ike.

Texas Attorney General
(800) 252-8011 or www.oag.state.tx.usIf you suspect a business of gasoline, or other, price gouging after the hurricane, you can report them by calling the attorney general or filing a report on the
Texas Attorney General's Web site. You can also find useful consumer protection information as you begin to recover and rebuild.

Small Business Administration
(800) U-ASK-SBA or www.sba.gov
Owners of small businesses, including some agriculture operations, affected by Hurricane Ike can apply for financial disaster assistance.

Federal Emergency Management Agency
(800) 621-FEMA or www.fema.gov
People affected by the storm can apply for disaster assistance from FEMA for food and lodging vouchers.

Public Utilities Commission
(888) 782-8477 or www.puc.state.tx.us
Get updated information on the progress of power restoration by contacting the Public Utility Commission of Texas.


Texas Department of Agriculture
Call the Texas Department of Agriculture if you would like to donate or assist in the transportation of hay, feed, water or other supplies to farmers and ranchers affected by the storm. There is also a need for assistance in transporting livestock from affected areas and pastures where evacuated animals may be re-located.

AgriLife Extension Service
(979) 845-2604 or
AgriLife online
Call or log-on to make a monetary contribute to help farmers and ranchers through the "No Fences" Hurricane Ike Horse and Cattle Relief fund. Monetary donations are needed to defray transportation costs associate with the rescue of horses and cattle, as well as the purchase of goods like feed and water troughs.

American Red Cross
(800) HELP-NOW
You can donate your time and money to those affected by the storm via the Red Cross.

East Texas Food Bank
(800) 815-3663
All food banks are taking food and money donations to help evacuees and other storm victims.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Aerial Tour of Area Devastated by Hurricane Ike

Today I traveled to Southeast Texas to meet with the men and women on the ground who are working tirelessly assisting in the massive hurricane recovery effort. After sitting down and hearing the needs of officials in Beaumont and Jefferson County, I was able to survey Jefferson and Chambers counties by air.

Don Gohmert from the Natural Resources Conservation Service joined me on the helicopter flight. We saw an extremely broad path of massive destruction – from entire communities wiped away to highways and bridges either destroyed or covered with massive barges. We also saw acres and acres of cropland and pastures that had been swallowed by the salty surge, estimated at up to ten miles inland.

From the air we witnessed live cattle wading through belly deep-water miles from high ground. Some cattle we found huddled together on top of levies searching for a path back home but finding no safe place to turn.

The fences, barns and corrals that used to dot this region are now gone, cleared away by the massive wall of water and wind.

However, the most moving thing I witnessed was the unconquerable spirit of our fellow Texans facing adversity as we speak. Sergeant Pipkin from the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department is a living tribute to public service. Hurricane Ike destroyed his family’s home, yet he remains on the job working 18 hours a day meeting the needs of his neighbors. Sergeant Pipkin is representative of the many Texas heroes who are working to rebuild our state.

We have a long road ahead of us, but with our independent spirit, our determined work ethic and our faith in God, we will survive this horrible disaster and become stronger.

You can see more of the full-sized photos we took on our tour in a slideshow HERE.
Or you can click on the photo below to start an embedded slideshow.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Update on Hurricane Ike Help for Texas Farmers & Ranchers

Above is a screenshot from a photo gallery on USAToday.com that shows several photos of Hurricane Ike's devastation in Southeast Texas. This powerful picture reemphasizes the importance of Texans helping agricultural producers in a time of dire need. Read my post from yesterday on how you can help ranchers like the one pictured above in High Island on the Bolivar Peninsula.

At this time, the Texas Department of Agriculture has sent three trucks with USDA commodities to the food banks in Houston, San Antonio and East Texas to help feed evacuees. We expect to get a request later today to make additional deliveries later this week.

We have had an overwhelming response from hay producers who have donated over 1,850 bales in the past two days. 11,000 more bales of hay have been committed, but more donations are still needed to help pay for the transportation costs to move it to Jefferson and Chambers counties. Some hay producers are not only donating hay, but are also driving it to the distribution point at White’s Park in Chambers County. Click HERE for a map to the hay donation drop-off point if you would also like to help.

I commend those who have generously volunteered their time, products and money to help fellow Texans in the face of disaster. It makes me proud to see so many selfless individuals making sacrifices on behalf of their fellow Texans.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Texans Need Your Help after Hurricane Ike Strands Livestock

The Texas Department of Agriculture is teaming with local, state and federal partners as well as statewide agricultural organizations to meet the needs of thousands of agricultural producers impacted by Hurricane Ike.

I extend this urgent plea to Texans across the state to assist in any way they can to help farmers and ranchers hit hard by the deadly storm.
Producers in Southeast Texas are in desperate need of our help to save their livestock. Storm surges from Hurricane Ike have destroyed fences and made forage and water sources harmful to livestock.

We are working with federal and state officials to save the remaining livestock, but also need assistance from fellow Texans to ensure the effects of this catastrophe don’t become worse.
State agencies are still trying to assess the financial impact Hurricane Ike has caused Texas agricultural producers; however, at this time, tens of thousands of livestock are without food and are at risk of dying if not fed.

For producers needing aid, it is essential they contact their local emergency management officials who are in direct communication with the state emergency disaster management team and will be able to allocate the proper resources. If your livestock-related needs are not met, you can contact staff at the Texas Animal Health Commission at 1-800-550-8242 ext. 296.

I ask producers who are signed up through the Texas Department of Agriculture’s Hay Hotline to sell or donate animal feed, hay or other resources such as feed and water troughs. Producers in need of these resources are encouraged to call the hotline at 1-800-Tell-TDA or visit our Hay Hotline for more information.

The Texas AgriLife Extension Service is also setting up horse and cattle feed donation and distribution sites. Contact your local extension agent for more information. If you would like to offer financial resources to the animal relief effort, AgriLife Extension Service has set up a foundation on their Web site, or call 979-845-2604.

To see the impact of Hurricane Ike on Texas livestock, watch this video on CNN.com of loose cattle in Baytown.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Tour of Hurricane Ike Shelter

On Friday, just before Hurricane Ike made landfall along the Texas coast, I traveled to East Texas and spoke with Tyler Mayor Barbara Bass and Smith County Judge Joel Baker. Together we visited St. Louis Baptist Church in Tyler, which is being utilized as a hurricane shelter. I also visited the American Red Cross sign-in headquarters, a hurricane shelter located at Dogwood Hills East Baptist Church, and the Emergency Operations Center in Anderson County with Sheriff Greg Taylor. We spoke with many citizens who had to evacuate, but who did so with strong resolve and positive outlooks. They expressed deep appreciation for the many volunteers who are working around the clock to provide for them in their time of need.

Texans staying in shelters like the ones in Tyler and Palestine, as well as others across our great state are in good hands. In fact, the Texas Department of Agriculture has been asked to deliver food commodities such as green beans, carrots, potatoes, various fruits and ground beef to the shelters this weekend.

This is a critical time for many, and is a great opportunity for Texans to help other Texans. I encourage you to donate to your local food banks. They need personal hygiene products, canned goods and single snack items like granola bars. You can also donate money to your local food bank.

I hope all Texans in the path of Hurricane Ike were able to get to a safe shelter. But the road to recovery will continue after the storm passes. We must continue to volunteer to help our fellow Texans pick up the pieces from the devastation this storm could bring.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Hurricane Ike Preparations, Remembering 9/11

Today I visited the State Emergency Operations Center in Austin as Texas prepares for Hurricane Ike to make landfall. Thousands of volunteers, state, federal and local employees along with many private businesses working around the clock to keep Texans safe from the storm. I urge all Texans to heed the warnings of local officials, as meteorologists say Ike’s storm surge could cause massive flooding and power outages in cities along our coastline.

The Texas Department of Agriculture is strategically placing food supplies around the state to help feed evacuees at shelters. It makes me proud to see the large numbers of volunteers who stand willing to help other Texans in their time of need. It’s because of their selflessness that others are guided through such a difficult time.

As we prepare for the worst, and hope for the best, we cannot forget the heroes who lost their lives on this very day seven years ago. I encourage all Texans to take time today to reflect on the great loss our country felt on 9/11, but to also remember the resiliency and fortitude embedded in the character of Americans that allows us to overcome such tragedies. We honor the men and women of the United States armed forces who have stepped up to keep America safe while fighting for the basic freedoms and democracy.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Obesity Awareness Week

As Texas children return to the classroom, we are reminded of our responsibility to encourage academic excellence, physical fitness and proper nutrition. A healthy mind and healthy body can lead to a lifetime of rich rewards. Today's nutritious school-served meals can play a part in feeding both.

The Texas Department of Agriculture and schools around our great state are working together to promote healthy eating habits. Parents and grandparents should really take the time to check out the school cafeteria. In recent years the menus have vastly improved; today, school-served meals are convenient, more affordable than other options and well balanced to provide daily servings of fruits and vegetables, dairy, grains and protein. With childhood obesity a nationwide epidemic, these initiatives provide a much-needed defense against a serious health crisis.

To read more on what TDA is doing to make sure Texas school meals are healthy, read my column here.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

GO TEXAN Parsley Shrimp

I hope you have enjoyed Chef Michael Flores’ deliciously Texan recipes as much as I have over the last few days. But the Texas shrimp featured in his delicious recipes are just a small taste of what to expect from the first-ever GO TEXAN Restaurant Round-Up. From smoked BBQ to fresh salads, you won’t be disappointed on October 1 when you:


Enjoy Michael’s simple yet tasty recipe for Parsley’d Shrimp here:

Monday, September 8, 2008

GO TEXAN Smoked Shrimp

Did you know that most of Texas' Gulf Coast Shrimp are harvested between April and November? As Chef Michael Flores explains in his recipe for Smoked Shrimp, technology has made Texas shrimp available year-round:

Friday, September 5, 2008

GO TEXAN Cast Iron Skillet Shrimp

As I mentioned earlier this week, October 1 is the first-ever statewide GO TEXAN Restaurant Round-Up. One of the many great foods that will be featured that night at numerous participating restaurants across the state is Texas Gulf Coast Shrimp.

If you'd like a new recipe to add to your cookbook, watch this video of Chef Michael Flores preparing Cast Iron Skillet Shrimp.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Go Out. Go Eat. GO TEXAN

On October 1, I invite you to participate in the first ever GO TEXAN Restaurant Round-Up, which celebrates Texas restaurants, foods and wines.

Fresh foods grown right here in the Lone Star State will be featured on the menus of participating GO TEXAN restaurants. Texas wine tastings and pairings with special pricing will also be available at some restaurants as part of this special Texas dining experience.
Many restaurants have volunteered to donate a portion of the day's proceeds to a local food bank. You can see the list of restaurants by going to gotexan.org and clicking on the big restaurant dot, or by visiting GoTexanRestaurantRoundUp.com.

The event is still a few weeks away, but now is a great time to spread the word to family and friends; be sure to tell them: GO out, GO eat, GO TEXAN.

In the meantime, proud GO TEXAN chef Michael Flores, has cooked up some deliciously Texan meals. As an appetizer for the biggest day in Texas dining, we will be sharing some more recipes from Chef Flores over the weeks leading up to our big dine-out event.

Today, you can watch Chef Flores make his Curry Coconut Shrimp:

Texans Feeding Texans Meal Delivery Program

Today I encourage home-delivered meal providers and non-profit organizations to apply for funding from the Texas Department of Agriculture's Texans Feeding Texans: Home-Delivered Meal Grant Program. The postmark deadline for grant applications is Nov. 1, 2008.

Home-delivered meal agencies provide life-sustaining meals daily to more than 100,000 homebound elderly and special needs Texans. In January, TDA awarded these agencies a total of $9.5 million through the grant program.

In Texas alone, seniors age 60 and older are expected to number about 8.1 million by 2040, which is a 193 percent increase from 2000. As this population grows, we can expect to see an ever-increasing need for services from home-delivered meal providers.

The Texans Feeding Texans: Home-Delivered Meal Grant Program will distribute $10 million to approved applicants by Feb. 1 of 2009. To be eligible for funding, an organization must be a non-profit organization or governmental agency that provided home-delivered meals in the past year. The entity also must receive a grant of 25 cents or less per senior resident from the county in which it delivers meals.

We need to do everything in our power to make sure our seniors and Texans with special needs never go hungry. The grant program will allow agencies and organizations to stretch their limited resources in order to put healthy, nutritious food on the tables of our homebound Texans.

Additional information about the grant program, the application process and program rules are on TDA's Web site at http://www.tda.state.tx.us/ under "Grants/Funding." Call (512) 463-6908 for more information.