Friday, January 30, 2009

Industry Collaboraton Yields Positive Results

Congratulations to the Austin Hotel & Lodging Association for working with Austin Community College (ACC) to ensure Austin continues to be home to what I believe is one of the best hospitality industries in the nation. Through a recent $15,000 donation, the Austin Hotel & Lodging Association has provided scholarships for students to attend the college.

ACC is a leader in working with industry and developing partnerships that create pathways for students to earn degrees and jobs in the local workforce. Not only do these partnerships benefit the students, but they benefit the local economy as well.

The Texas Department of Agriculture wants to hear more success stories about industry and community college collaboration. Send your stories to Let's all work to grow Texas.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Governor Perry's State of the State Address

Many issues challenge the members of the Texas Legislature as they meet during this 81st session. I was on the house floor today as the Governor delivered the State of the State address and the House and Senate members appeared eager to ensure Texas continues to fare better than most states in the nation.

Among the items that will take center stage this year is how to address the funding needs of a growing public school system, protecting property owners' rights by ensuring a fair process, keeping taxes low and fair for Texas taxpayers and securing our borders. Also highlighted was the need to keep nutritious meals in our schools and to encourage our kids to pursue healthier lifestyles. I met with a group of superintendents just this morning discussing this very issue.

Texas definitely has its challenges ahead of it. However, I, along with all of our state’s elected leaders, will continue to invest resources in the critical areas affecting our state.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Recognizing Leaders in Texas Agriculture

Texas prides itself on great leadership. From Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin to Sam Rayburn and Lyndon B. Johnson, to George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush, we have a history of powerful and dedicated individuals who have shaped our state and country.

Texas Agricultural Lifetime Leadership, or TALL, is an outstanding program sponsored by AgriLife Extension Service at Texas A&M University that recruits young, talented adults from across Texas and exposes them to a rigorous two year competitive leadership development program. Through seminars with experts, on-site tours, meetings with business and government leaders, international study and more, TALL helps shape future leaders who will make positive contributions to the agriculture industry.

These Texans will influence the present and future of Texas. We must remember service and giving back are fundamental to the development of a successful Texas. I am grateful to our future leaders who are involved in TALL for their dedication and ambition.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Good Practices for Fruits and Veggies

I think it is very fitting the Texas Department of Agriculture serves as the administrator for our state's school lunch and breakfast programs. There’s no better place than the agency that works with and promotes the best interests of our state’s farmers and ranchers who produce high-quality, nutritious, life-sustaining foods that we all too often take for granted.

I was particularly encouraged by two elementary schools, O.A. Peterson in Fort Worth and Sendera Ranch in Haslet, that are working with food service provider Aramark to creatively encourage students to eat fresh fruits and vegetables. Their story was featured in the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram.

What really caught my attention in the story was these quotes from Michelle DoPorto, a mom at Sendera Ranch Elementary, describing how the school’s efforts had enthusiastically made her 7-year-old son, Trey, make some unique choices.

“He came home and said: ‘Mom, I had an apple. I got some broccoli,’” DoPorto said. “He is very particular about what he eats. There’s something about hearing it from a doctor or a teacher. It just seems more meaningful than when Mom and Dad say it.”

And it just can’t be said any better. We all need to give a big thanks to Texas teachers and doctors who not only recognize the importance of healthy choices, but who take the time and energy to steer our children in the right direction to live long, healthy lives.

Click here to find out more about TDA’s efforts in encouraging children to adopt the 3Es of Healthy Living – Education, Exercise and Eating Right.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

President Obama's Inauguration

Our country begins a new chapter today with the inauguration of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. Regardless of whom we supported or how we voted in this last election cycle, today we all, as Americans, must join together to continue to be the world’s leading nation in spreading freedom and democracy, and to fight our way out of the economic tsunami that has landed on our shores.

There will be and should be healthy and lively debate about the best course of action our country should take. This must not deter us from seeking common ground and developing win-win solutions.

I have already made contact with Secretary of Agriculture nominee Tom Vilsack, invited him to Texas and made him aware of our state’s unique capabilities. I look forward to working with him to ensure agriculture policy enables our farmers and ranchers to produce the safest, most abundant and reliable food supply in the world.

Texas 4-H and Star of Texas Rodeo Help Future Texans

What do the Texas 4-H Foundation and the Star of Texas Livestock Show and Rodeo have in common? They both help Texas kids, providing them with opportunities that will pave the way for a bright future.

Monday evening, after the day’s celebrations honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, directors from both organizations met at the Salt Lick restaurant in Round Rock, where I was tasked with the delightful opportunity to speak and with the tough duty of eating delicious barbecue (fortunately, I managed to leave on time; otherwise there would have been no ribs left, as I’m pretty sure I ate three weeks’ worth).

It was great to hear of the wonderful progress the Texas 4-H Foundation has made with youth statewide. In 2008 alone, the foundation provided more than $2.2 million in scholarships to graduating 2008 high school 4-H seniors. Similarly, the Star of Texas Livestock Show and Rodeo has given $3.5 million in scholarships to area youth since 1983 when the rodeo began.

Generous actions like these give young Texans the jump-start they need to do well in life and give back to their communities. We should all look for opportunities to partner in these types of actions.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Platform for Success

On Thursday I spoke to the “Putting America Back to Work” conference hosted by the Texas Workforce Commission.

I must say this was well attended by a good cross section of Texans who want to see our economy tackle the tough issues of affordable and reliable energy, workforce development and a sound economic model to attract business, jobs and capital investment.

My message was a simple one: What are we doing to prepare our children to be competitive in an ever-changing economy that is constantly challenged by advancements from other countries?

Capturing our kids’ imaginations is the answer. We must do that with choices in our educational structure like those occurring at the East Williamson County Higher Education Center. There, a consortium of Taylor and Hutto school districts in partnership with Temple College, Texas State Technical College, Tarleton State and Texas Tech University has formed a group called Legacy College High School that will enable kids to graduate from high school with 60 hours of college credit. The students have the choice to pursue career and technical classes with rigor or the traditional academic route.

Local leaders took the initiative to develop this platform of success. We need local leaders partnering with state leaders to duplicate this success story all over Texas. We must prepare our children for successful futures and to meet future job demands – prepare them with rigor and accountability – as they go on to take the lead in Texas.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Legislature Back in Session

The 81st session of the Texas Legislature has started off in full swing as the new members took their oath of office today.

Many tough issues must be handled as the future of Texas is shaped. An efficient budget must be passed, water planning for a growing state adopted, education initiatives developed and property owners' rights protected.

The Texas Department of Agriculture will continue to work diligently and partner with legislators to meet the needs of a growing state.

Stay tuned!

Monday, January 12, 2009

USDA Gives $4.9 Million to Help Fight Fever Ticks in Texas

Today was an important day for Texas agriculture, as well as for the entire United States cattle industry.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer traveled to Laredo with a letter confirming that $4.9 million will to go toward the cattle fever tick eradication efforts in South Texas. Lone Star State cattlemen are on the front line of defense of the fever tick battle zone, and we're excited this additional funding will help them combat the problem.

Fever ticks are capable of carrying and transmitting a parasite that destroys red blood cells in cattle, causing “cattle tick fever,” which can kill up to 90 percent of infected cattle. Failure to eradicate the pests in South Texas could lead to devastation across the country.

Many more hurdles remain in eradicating the fever tick, but progress like the money from USDA makes me optimistic about the future.

We appreciate U.S. Congressman Henry Cuellar along with State Representatives Sid Miller and Ryan Guillen for joining us at today’s announcement and showing their leadership and support.