Monday, December 22, 2008

TDA Honors 2008 Service Award Recipients

December is a time when the Texas Department of Agriculture holds its annual service awards congratulating all of our dedicated team members who are committed to providing exceptional service to Texans all year long.

We particularly recognize individuals who have reached a milestone by having served TDA from 5 to 35 years. For a list of the employees honored this year,
click here.

Friday, December 19, 2008

TDA and community development

I recently spoke with city leaders and entrepreneurs from several north Texas cities at the Best Southwest Partnership quarterly luncheon in Duncanville. It was exciting to see the local officials’ enthusiasm and dedication to building opportunities for their communities and the Lone Star State. I visited with them about the Texas Department of Agriculture’s expanded role to serve all Texans and the need for communities to foster economic development.

In case you missed it, Lancaster Today highlighted my message to the group:

Ag commissioner shares thoughts on Texas community with BSW

Wednesday, December 17

Living in a metropolitan area, agriculture may not be a prime concern to the residents of Southwest Dallas County. But at the Best Southwest Partnership quarterly luncheon, Texas Commissioner of Agriculture Todd Staples communicated the importance of Texas agriculture and community development.

“If you are eating today or wearing clothes, you are involved in agriculture,” Staples said. “In 2007, for the first time ever, agriculture contributed more than $100 billion to Texas economy and 9.5 percent of the state's total gross product. People really don't think about agriculture until there is a problem.”

Contrary to popular belief, Staples said the Texas Department of Agriculture centers upon much more than agriculture.

“We focus on a variety of issues and concerns, working for the advancement and opportunity for all of us in Texas,” Staples said. “We act as the state's weights and measures to protect consumers and businesses.”

One of TDA's primary concentrations is child obesity and education, an area in which Texas has become a leader in recent years, according to Staples.

“Texas ranks sixth in the nation in child obesity,” Staples said. “Our priority is to turn the trend around. We are encouraging food service directors and administrators to helps us implement programs to teach the importance of healthy living.

TDA is partnering with schools and businesses to preserve Texas' quality education, which Staples said is not only vital to students, but the businesses as well.

“We must make certain we invest in our children. We have to communicate the importance of these programs for not only their health and well-being, but also the health for our economy. As a business community, you are the end users of our graduates.”

Education and a sense of community is what Staples said sets Texas apart. Understanding the unique qualities of Texas, TDA has initiated the GO Texan campaign, which promotes the products, cultures and communities of the state.

“We recently discovered that 96 percent of Texans prefer Texas products,” Staples said. “People around the globe are excited about Texas. We, as Texans, have an image that we can capitalize on.”

With the nation's economy in its current shape, Staples highlighted that Texas is better off than most financially.

“Unlike many states, such as Michigan and California, who are calling on the federal government to bail them out, Texans have planned ahead financially with low taxes and a high quality of life. We are a welcome mat for opportunity.”

Staples believes that Texas has all of the traits to become a retirement destination for seniors around the nation.

“Texas is the second most popular state for retirement, but we want to be No. 1,” Staples said Retirees contribute about $2.3 trillion in annual spending. I don't know about you, but I want that money coming into Texas' economy. Retirees are an industry.'

In March 2007, Duncanville became the fourth Go Texan Certified Retirement Community and Staples encouraged Cedar Hill, DeSoto and Lancaster communities to join their neighbor.

“It would be easy to say, ‘Well Duncanville already is a CRC. Do we really need another in this area?' As businesspeople, you are well aware of how a cluster economy can build off of one another. The best way to attract people to your area is to have several cities that have multiple things to offer them. As a community that is working together, you can cast a much bigger net.”

Staples applauded the work the BSW partnership was doing in its collective effort to create a community of which its residents and businessowners can be proud.

“We must maintain a spirit of cooperation that enables us to realize we are competitors, but also understand that if my neighbor does well that benefits me, too.”

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Governor Perry appoints the Commission for Disaster Recovery and Renewal

I appreciate Governor Perry appointing the Commission for Disaster Recovery and Renewal and look forward to continuing to assist the Texas agriculture community, as well as other victims, of hurricanes and natural disasters. Texans have proven time and again they can face adversity and overcome. I am confident this committee will develop a plan that will ensure timely and appropriate assistance for Texans who have suffered through major disasters.

Having previously served as chair of the Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security, I can assure all Texans our system of response and recovery is fast acting and designed to be receptive to the needs of its citizens.

Funds available for Texas farmers and ranchers recovering from Hurricane Ike

There is some good news for farmers and ranchers who suffered losses and damages from Hurricane Ike in September. Thanks to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) and our state’s senators and representatives in Congress, $13.7 million in funds are available to Texas farmers and ranchers in 20 designated counties.


Texas farmers and ranchers can apply for the funding to pay for things like debris removal and fence restoration. But there are some limited conditions in order for land to be eligible. Hurricane Ike must have created new conservation problems that, if untreated, would:

  • Impair or endanger the land
  • Materially affect the land's productive capacity
  • Represent unusual damage which, except for wind erosion, is not the type likely to recur frequently in the same area
  • Be so costly to repair that federal assistance is or will be required to return the land to productive agricultural use


To see if you are eligible and to apply, visit for more information on the program. The ECP application period is for 60 days. Sign-up dates for counties impacted by Hurricane Ike are as follows:


Dec. 1, 2008 – Jan. 29, 2009                                              Jan. 5 – Mar. 5, 2009

Angelina County                                                                 Brazoria County

Cherokee County                                                                Chambers County

Houston County                                                                  Galveston County

Jasper County                                                                       Hardin County

Nacogdoches County                                                          Harris County

Newton County                                                                    Jefferson County

Polk County                                                                          Liberty County

Rusk County                                                                         Montgomery County

San Jacinto County                                                               Orange County

Trinity County                                                                          

Tyler County                                               

Monday, December 15, 2008

TERP Hopes to Encourage Farmers and Ranchers to "Go Green"

Right now, air quality in Texas is a serious issue, and one affecting all Texans. That’s why I’m happy to announce TDA is partnering with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to reduce harmful emissions released into the air by older trucks, tractors and other farming equipment.

The Texas Emissions Reduction Plan, or TERP, offers agricultural producers grants that will fund up to 80 percent of replacing old vehicles or up to 100 percent of replacing an emissions-producing engine. TERP aims to improve air quality in urban and near-urban areas by removing as many sources of pollution as possible.

For more information on deadlines and eligibility, visit, or call 1-800-919-TERP.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Documentary Highlights Texan Teamwork After Hurricane Ike

On Monday, I met with Texas AgriLife Extension Service to be part of a documentary on the tremendous response to Hurricane Ike. AgriLife Extension was one of many great partners who collaborated to meet the diverse needs of Texas farmers and ranchers after the devastation.

Hurricane Ike resulted in what was most likely the largest cattle drive in Texas and North America. Approximately 15,000 head of cattle were displaced by the storm, and it was critical to move fast to make sure the surviving livestock received food, water and nutrients. Without hesitation, a partnership of Texans was formed.

Because of the outstanding efforts of several state and federal agencies, as well as close coordination with industry partners such as the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, Independent Cattlemen’s Association and others, Southeast Texas will be able to recover from the devastating impact.

The video is expected to be available in January 2009 and we will post it on the Texas Department of Agriculture’s Web site at

If you or someone you know still needs assistance from Hurricane Ike, visit TDA’s Web site and click on our Hurricane Ike Recovery Resource Fact Sheet.

A Collaborative Effort to Fight Childhood Obesity

In Aggieland on Monday, I met with some of the leaders in the fight against childhood obesity. We brainstormed on ways to tackle the growing obesity problem in the Lone Star State.

Bill Ludwig, U.S. Department of Agriculture Southwest Region Administrator for Food Nutrition Services, coordinated the round-table discussion that included representatives from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas, Texas AgriLife Extension Family and Consumer Sciences, the Agatston Research Foundation and The OrganWise Guys health education program . We shared ideas on how to decrease obesity rates among our younger generations, and I am excited to say there are already some great efforts underway to help combat this terrible epidemic.

As you may already know, Texas ranks sixth in the nation in childhood obesity, and in 2005 Texas businesses spent an estimated $3.3 billion on costs related to obesity. This is a trend we must change.

Although Texas schools are already doing an outstanding job of fighting obesity, the realty is we are losing our children after school, during the weekends and in the summers. Through a collaborative effort we can all help Texas children by encouraging them to adopt the 3Es of Healthy Living: Education, Exercise and Eating right. These components are critical to winning the war on obesity.

The upcoming legislative session will give us many opportunities to make gains in our fight against obesity. To find out more about TDA’s request to the state legislature to implement healthy lifestyles for Texas children, visit and look for the link on the right called Legislative Appropriations Request.

TDA appreciates all our partners and their investment in healthy lifestyles, and I hope we can work together to improve Texans’ health and end this obesity crisis.