Friday, November 28, 2008

Deadline Extended for USDA's SURE Program for 2009

I am pleased to announce to our Texas producers that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has just made some important adjustments to their implementation of disaster program provisions of the 2008 Farm Bill. The changes allow eligible producers with certain crops such as citrus to buy into the Supplemental Revenue Assistance (SURE) Program for the 2009 year.
The SURE Program will provide benefits to producers whose crops are damaged by natural disasters. To be eligible, producers had to have previously purchased crop insurance or will need to utilize this one-time buy-in provision.
I contacted USDA after hearing concerns from Texas farmers who were unable to participate in SURE as the sign-up period for the required crop insurance had already passed. I urged USDA to extend the deadline so these farmers could become eligible for the program.
Eligible Texas producers now have until Jan. 12, 2009 to visit their local Farm Service Agency and buy into the SURE Program with respect to certain 2009 crops. Eligibility for this buy-in opportunity is based on whether the crop insurance closing date for their 2009 crop was before the passage of the 2008 Farm Bill.
I urge all Texas producers to find out if they are eligible to receive assistance through SURE. The program will no doubt offer assurance to our local producers and economy in times of potential disaster.
Click HERE for more information on the program

Thursday, November 27, 2008

History Serves as Guide on Thanksgiving Day

As our state and nation pause to celebrate a day of thanks, we all remember the story we’ve been told of the first Thanksgiving. However, it was George Washington who made the first Thanksgiving proclamation in 1789, setting the stage for this annual holiday. Looking back to what our founding fathers were thankful for helps put all of our blessings into perspective.

George Washington's 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation
Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to "recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"
Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.
Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3d day of October, A.D. 1789.
                                                                                          G. Washington

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

South Korean Retailers Resume Beef Exports from the U.S.

Finally, some good news for international beef exports.

As most of you know, the economic crisis has impacted the beef industry along with most agriculture commodities.

But later this week, South Korea's big retailers will resume U.S. beef sales. While this certainly will help the beef industry, it will have positive impacts on other agriculture commodities as well. Read more about the decision in the following news story:

South Korea's big retailers to resume US beef sales

SEOUL - Major South Korean retailers said Tuesday they would resume U.S. beef sales for the first time since mass protests against the imports rocked the country, citing the need for cheap food during hard times.

The Korea Chainstores Association said US beef would be back on shelves from Thursday at the top three discount stores -- Lotte Mart, E-Mart and Homeplus, which is owned by Britain's Tesco.

Click here to read full article

Monday, November 24, 2008

Texas Makes Progess on Helping to Feed the Hungry

Texas ranks third in America for food insecurity. This is definitely not a statistic to brag about, but the good news is private industry and the state are taking serious strides to try to end hunger in the Lone Star State.

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. recently announced it will give Feeding America food banks an estimated 90 million pounds of food annually – the equivalent of 70 million meals. This means 19 food banks across Texas will receive thousands of pounds of food in 2009.

Additionally, food banks continue to receive $1 million annually through the Texas Department of Agriculture’s Texans Feeding Texans Grant Program. This same program will also provide much-needed assistance to Texas home-delivered meal providers who will receive $10 million in 2009 to pay for thousands of additional meals for homebound disabled and elderly Texans.

Ending hunger in Texas is something I’m committed to, and there’s no question these partnerships will benefit not only those in need, but ALL Texans. You, too, can help feed hungry Texans. Contribute to your favorite charity today or go on-line and find out how to give to the Texas Food Bank Network or to your local Meals on Wheels or home-delivered meal provider.

Texas Teachers Learn From One Another About the Future of Our Economy

In the middle of an economic crisis like most of us have never experienced, it should encourage you to know a group of educators and business leaders are thinking about a big topic for Texas: Going global. Recently I had the chance to visit with a gathering of Texas teachers who were focusing on broadening horizons for Texas students.

“Globalization in America” was the title of the conference presented by the Texas Council on Economic Education (TCEE). The conference gathered educators from across the Lone Star State and offered sessions on international opportunities for teachers, globalization, international markets for Texas products and Texas as the site for international companies.

Texas depends greatly on exports to a global market to keep our economy going. In the agriculture sector alone, Texas ranked fifth in the U.S. with an estimated $4.6 billion in sales to foreign markets in 2007. Overall, Texas exports of merchandise in 2007 totaled $168.2 billion, which was the largest figure among all 50 states.

With the world we live in becoming more interdependent every day, I am grateful to these dedicated teachers and TCEE for teaming up to go global.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Water for Texas Helps Growing Population

Water for Texas. That is what’s on the minds of many state leaders and planners these days.

Our state's population is expected to reach 45 million by 2060, almost doubling our current population and creating a major demand for water. According to the Texas Water Development Board, conservation efforts are critical to meet almost ¼ of our state’s water needs by 2060. To put it in perspective, that’s enough water to fill the Astrodome more than 800 times per year!

Fortunately, Texas has many partners who are not waiting for conservation efforts to just happen – they are leading the way. I was part of a press conference today at the Lower Colorado River Authority where Wal-Mart announced they are donating $250,000 to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation to help fund a new watershed restoration initiative called Water for Texas. The program will help provide additional water for Texans.

Whether you’re planning your personal budget or one for business, plan on conserving water as a part of your daily routine. Water conservation should save you money in the long run and help ensure our state continues to have an abundant water supply in the future. To find out more about conserving water, visit or and search for “how to conserve water.”

Monday, November 17, 2008

Celebrate the Lone Star State

It’s never dull in Texas, and that was particularly true this weekend as I had the opportunity to travel and view some of the best offerings of the Lone Star State.

Texas Citrus Mutual (TCM) observed its 50th Anniversary this weekend at the Shary Mansion in Mission, Texas. Shary Mansion is owned by UT-Pan American University and was the perfect setting to celebrate the contributions of TCM and the tremendous advancements in the citrus industry, which contributes $150 million annually to the Texas economy.

Not that Texans like to brag, but nationwide Texas ranks second in grapefruit and third in orange production. You should contact Ray Prewett and our friends at TCM at (956) 584-1772 to find out how to obtain a very attractive coffee table pictorial history book that was published to commemorate this truly special occasion.

While traveling back to Austin from Mission, I stopped to see Stanley and Holly Schilling at the Schilling Ranch near George West. The Schillings represent what is good about Texas agriculture. Their operations cover a broad spectrum of agriculture, including corn and grain production along with experimental crops such as sesame, canola and luceana. Forages, commercial cattle and an embryo transfer business also are on site.

The Schillings understand the need to diversify for profitability and survival as our agriculture industry changes. They’ve even included recreation and nature tourism into the mix. At Schilling Ranch, you will find a well-managed wildlife setting where deer, turkey, quail and javelina roam. Of course, you also can find wild hogs.

If you haven’t experienced the diversity of Texas agriculture lately, the fall hunting season is the perfect time to explore and enjoy.

Friday, November 14, 2008

National Cotton Council and Texas Cotton Industry

More than 25 countries and several states were on hand for the National Cotton Council’s Sourcing USA summit held this week at the beautiful Hyatt Lost Pines resort in Bastrop.

I was honored to greet our out-of-state and international guests and welcome them to Texas on behalf of our 24 million citizens.

It was easy to say great things about our dynamic cotton industry. Texas cotton producers generate more than a third of the nation’s cotton and provide seven percent of the world’s cotton supply. This enormous contribution results in billions of dollars to the Texas economy and thousands of jobs across the Lone Star State. In fact, our cotton producers grew enough cotton last year to make 1.7 billion pairs of blue jeans. Pretty cool, huh?

Employees Enjoy the Texas Tradition of Tailgating

Football and tailgating are time-honored Texas traditions, and the Texas Department of Agriculture recently did its part to uphold the spirit of the gridiron with the fellowship of the grill.

Tailgating outside the Stephen F. Austin Building under a beautiful Texas sky, TDA employees enjoyed flavorful sausage wraps and smoky baked beans cooked by our own master pit tenders, Doyle Fuchs, Jeremy Fuchs, Randy Rivera and Robin Roark.

As much as it is my great pleasure to work side-by-side with these talented people as we tend to the business of TDA, it likewise was great fun to serve a down-home employee appreciation luncheon for the TDA team that works tirelessly throughout the year to provide excellent consumer service.

Tailgating and teamwork are two winning Texas traditions, and I am proud to uphold them both.

Cooper Clinic Dedicated to Combating Obesity in Texas

Taxpayers are picking up the tab for poor eating choices by incurring expenses to fight illness, obesity and rising healthcare costs.

At the Texas Department of Agriculture, we are using every possible resource to promote the 3Es of Healthy Living – education, exercise and eating right. In our schools, we are working with cafeteria staff to take on the enormous task of providing healthy, nutritious meals to millions of schoolchildren every day. Our team is also working hard to educate our kids about the importance of exercising and making smart eating choices.

Earlier this week, I had the privilege of spending an hour with the world famous Dr. Kenneth Cooper when he invited me to tour the
Cooper Clinic in Dallas. Dr. Cooper is known as the “Father of Aerobics,” and his work has influenced companies and citizens from across the globe.

Dr. Cooper shared with me invaluable information that I intend to use to wage war on obesity in Texas. I am most grateful to Dr. Cooper and Dr. Charles Sterling for their insight, time and ongoing dedication to Texans, especially our schoolchildren. Through partnerships like these, we can combat illness and obesity while bettering the lives of future generations.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Vote Tomorrow on Election Day!

Tuesday is Election Day! Hopefully, you've already voted. If not, please don't let this opportunity pass you by.

Your voice does count. Elected leaders do listen when you show your preference at the polls. Study up on the issues. Look at the history of the candidates. Find out what they've done and what the long-term consequences of their policies will be.

Regardless of your affiliation, label, political persuasion or background, your vote counts just as much as the most influential person in America, because that is exactly who you are. Don't miss this important opportunity to be heard!

Voting is not only a right, it's a duty. So be sure to vote!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

You Can!

It was good to see my friends at the University of Texas at Tyler (UTT) this week. They held a luncheon for the Heritage Society, a group who have pledged financial support to the university through their wills, insurance policies or other avenues.

UTT, with campuses in Tyler, Longview and Palestine, is doing an excellent job reaching out to students with a positive message of "You Can!" Too many times society, personal influences or circumstances send a "You Can't" message to our children. But because of their generous donations and forward thinking, this group of Texans is proclaiming boldly and clearly to this and future generations, "You Can!"

Now, that is the Texas way!