Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Conroe Noon Lions Club Meeting

With Conroe Noon Lion's Club Program Chairman, "Lion" Pete Brasher, and President, Mel Lonon

Congratulations to the Conroe Noon Lions Club on being the second largest in the United States. Of the 43,000 Lions Clubs in the world, the Conroe Noon Lions Club is the fifth largest. Pretty impressive, huh?

I had the opportunity to address members today and thank them for their service and dedication to building a better Texas. These men and women understand the importance of giving back and are very active in benefiting worthy causes in the Montgomery County area.

Montgomery County has enjoyed substantial growth since 2000, increasing approximately 40.4 percent to a population of 412,638. Along with this tremendous population growth, the area’s agriculture industry also is growing. Montgomery County cash receipts for agricultural products in 2008 totaled $108.8 million, with a statewide economic impact of $183.4 million.

As the Montgomery County area continues to grow and prosper, the leadership and vision of organizations like the Conroe Noon Lions Club will become increasingly more important to enriching the community and bettering all of Texas.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Day Two of the GO TEXAN Restaurant Round-Up in Longview

Joined today by State Rep. Tommy Merritt, Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt and members of the local agriculture and business industry, we celebrated day two of the GO TEXAN Restaurant Round-Up, presented by Farm Credit , at Johnny Cace’s Seafood and Steak House in Longview. A lunch, made with fresh Texas-grown ingredients, was served as part of the only statewide, weeklong dine-out event in Texas created to honor Texas farmers and ranchers who provide us with the safest and most affordable food supply in the world.

Showcasing the best of Texas is what the GO TEXAN Restaurant Round-Up is all about. When restaurants like Johnny Cace’s Seafood and Steak House choose foods grown by Texas farmers and ranchers, more jobs are created and our economy benefits. Through the Round-Up, all Texans have the opportunity to celebrate Texas by dining at restaurants serving their customers locally grown and raised products.

In addition to supporting Texas agriculture, the GO TEXAN Restaurant Round-Up also benefits local communities, as many restaurants are donating a portion of their proceeds to local food banks.

The GO TEXAN Restaurant Round-Up runs Sept. 28-Oct. 2. For more information, visit

Monday, September 28, 2009

GO TEXAN Restaurant Round-Up is Sept. 28 - Oct. 2

State Representatives Vicki Truitt, Marc Veasey, Lon Burnam, and Mark Shelton helped me kick off the GO TEXAN Restaurant Round-Up at Eddie V’s in Fort Worth today. This event is the only statewide dine-out event featuring the best of Texas.

Now in its second year, the GO TEXAN Restaurant Round-Up links Texas farmers and ranchers with restaurants that proudly serve Texas ingredients. This year, more than 400 Texas restaurant locations are participating in the Round-Up. Not only is the Round-Up a winner for Texas consumers, it also benefits many area food banks that receive a portion of the proceeds from participating restaurants.

The Round-Up runs from Sept. 28 - Oct 2. Visit for a restaurant near you. Remember GO OUT. GO EAT. GO TEXAN.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Eminent Domain Reform Needed

Check out this article. It clearly demonstrates the need for eminent domain reform and the failure of current policy.

Or read full text below:

Conn. land vacant 4 years after court OK'd seizure
By KATIE NELSON Associated Press Writer

NEW LONDON, Conn. — Weeds, glass, bricks, pieces of pipe and shingle splinters have replaced the knot of aging homes at the site of the nation's most notorious eminent domain project.

There are a few signs of life: Feral cats glare at visitors from a miniature jungle of Queen Anne's lace, thistle and goldenrod. Gulls swoop between the lot's towering trees and the adjacent sewage treatment plant.

But what of the promised building boom that was supposed to come wrapped and ribboned with up to 3,169 new jobs and $1.2 million a year in tax revenues? They are noticeably missing.

Proponents of the ambitious plan blame the sour economy. Opponents call it a "poetic justice."

"They are getting what they deserve. They are going to get nothing," said Susette Kelo, the lead plaintiff in the landmark property rights case. "I don't think this is what the United States Supreme Court justices had in mind when they made this decision."

Kelo's iconic pink home sat for more than a century on that currently empty lot, just steps away from Connecticut's quaint but economically distressed Long Island Sound waterfront. Shortly after she moved in, in 1997, her house became ground zero in the nation's best-known land rights catfight.

New London officials decided they needed Kelo's land and the surrounding 90 acres for a multimillion-dollar private development that included residential, hotel conference, research and development space and a new state park that would complement a new $350 million Pfizer pharmaceutical research facility.

Kelo and six other homeowners fought for years, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2005, justices voted 5-4 against them, giving cities across the country the right to use eminent domain to take property for private development.

The decision was sharply criticized and created grassroots backlash. Forty states quickly passed new, protective rules and regulations, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Some protesters even tried to turn the tables on now-retired Justice David Souter, trying unsuccessfully in 2006 to take his New Hampshire home by eminent domain to build an inn.

In New London the city's prized economic development plan has fallen apart as the economy crumbled.

The Corcoran Jennison Cos., a Boston-based developer, had originally locked in exclusive rights to develop nearly the entire northern half of the Fort Trumbull peninsula.

But those rights expired in June 2008, despite multiple extensions, because the firm was unable to secure financing, according to President Marty Jones.

In July, backers halted fundraising for the project's crown jewel, a proposed $60 million, 60,000-square-foot Coast Guard museum.

The poor economy meant that donations weren't "keeping pace with expenses," said Coast Guard Foundation president Anne Brengle.

The group hopes to resume fundraising in the future, she said.

Overall, proponents say about two-thirds of the 90-acre site is developed, in part because of a 16-acre, $25 million state park. The other third of the land remains without the promised residential housing, office buildings, shops and hotel/conference center facility.

"If there had been no litigation, which took years to work its way through (the court system), then a substantial portion of this project would be constructed by now," said John Brooks, executive director of the New London Development Corp. "But we are victims of the economic cycle, and there is nothing we can do about that."

A new engineering tenant is moving into one of the office buildings at 1 Chelsea St., and a bio tech firm with as many as five employees is getting ready to move into an existing building on Howard Street, Brooks said.

Kelo, paid $442,000 by the state for her old property, now lives across the Thames River in Groton, in a white, two-bedroom 1950s bungalow. Her beloved pink house was sold for a dollar and moved less than two miles away, where a local preservationist has refurbished it.

Kelo can see her old neighborhood from her new home, but she finds the view too painful to bear.

"Everything is different, but everything is like still the same," said Kelo, who works two jobs and has largely maintained a low profile since moving away. "You still have life to deal with every day of the week. I just don't have eminent domain to deal with every day of the week, even after I ate, slept and breathed it for 10 years."

Although her side lost, Kelo said she sees the wider ramifications of her property rights battle.

"In the end it was seven of us who fought like wild animals to save what we had," she said. "I think that though we ultimately didn't win for ourselves, it has brought attention to what they did to us, and if it can make it better for some other people so they don't lose their homes to a Dunkin' Donuts or a Wal-Mart, I think we did some good."

Scott Bullock, senior attorney for the Institute for Justice, argued Kelo's case before the Supreme Court. He calls "massive changes that have happened in the law and in the public consciousness" the "real legacy" of Kelo and the other plaintiffs.

The empty land means the city won a "hollow victory," he said.

"What cities should take from this is to run fleeing from what New London did and do economic development that is market-driven and incorporate properties of folks who are truly committed to their neighborhood and simply want to be a part of what happens," he said.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Climate Change Summit

This morning I joined Gov. Perry and commissioners from the Texas Public Utility Commission, Railroad Commission and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for a climate change summit.

Right now it is critical for us to take a stand. The current administration and some in Congress are pushing an environmental agenda that threatens the very livelihood of Texas farmers and ranchers. We must navigate this debate with a balanced approach enlightened by the reality that a clean environment and a strong economy can co-exist, and likely can benefit from one another. You can hear a small portion of my speech by clicking here or read the full text below.

Thank you, Gov. Perry for your leadership on this issue. I want to also say thank you to commissioners from the Texas Public Utility Commission, Railroad Commission and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Texas Commission for Environmental Quality for holding this climate change summit today.

The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (HR 2454) has been rightly called the Cap & Trade bill because if passed it will most assuredly cap economic activity, cap productivity and trade American jobs overseas.

In fact, it could have many names: it could be the
Pay More to Heat Your Home bill,
Pay More for the Food You Eat bill, or
Pay More for the Clothes You Wear bill.

At a time when Washington debates solutions for those without access to affordable healthcare in America, it contemplates this legislation, which will - if passed - add to the rolls of the uninsured.

How so? HR 2454 will add a new layer of uncertainty into the market place. It will, by the proponents’ own admission, increase the cost of energy and will be punitive not just to Texans, but to all Americans.

Uncertainty, volatility and lack of predictability freeze investment. In short, it costs jobs.

Cost of implementation of this legislation is all over the map. The most conservative estimates are from the bill sponsors, who say it will cost American families less than a postage stamp per day.

When did our country become so consumed with change that we have allowed our debate on policy to move from if it will cost, to who is right on how much it will cost?

Does anyone but me find it ironic they chose a postage stamp for a cost analogy? A stamp whose price tag has increased 144% since I graduated from high school in 1981. And, more importantly, the very future of our postal system is in doubt today.

American agriculture produces the safest, most affordable, most reliable food supply in the world.

HR 2454 threatens the ability for continued domestic food production.

The proponents’ own analysis says that total farm expenses could increase by $700 million each year. This is a far cry from the American Farm Bureau economists’ predictions that the bill will cost U.S. farmers approximately $5 billion in farm income each year by 2020, increasing to $13 billion annually by 2030.

They are not alone. The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau says the economics don’t add up for agriculture. They say this is akin to playing Russian roulette on energy issues. They say we are forfeiting America’s competitiveness.

I am proud of the fact that in Texas, agriculture contributes almost 9.5 percent of our GSP. Texas leads the nation in the production of cattle, cotton, sheep and goats, and is among the leading states in the production of citrus, vegetables, poultry products, sorghum, wheat and rice.

USDA claims agriculture can see net benefits in the long-term. Do you want me to tell you how they define long term? 2048! What will the price of a postage stamp be then?

Consumers might ask: How many farmers will even survive to the middle of this century?

The recently completed U.S. Census of Agriculture says the average age of the U.S. farmer has risen to age 57. Alarmingly, the number of farmers under age 25 has decreased by 30 percent since 2002.

The biggest factors blocking access to young people entering production agriculture are volatility and increased costs. Volatility and increased costs are the only two certain elements with this proposed climate change legislation.

Americans do not like being dependent on foreign oil. We cannot, and we must not, become dependent on foreign food.

From the House Committee on Energy and Commerce's Web site, the bill sponsors and advocates:

“Because of its balanced approach, the American Clean Energy and Security Act has received broad support from industry and environmentalists. Passage of the bill in the House was supported by electric utilities, oil companies, car companies, chemical companies, major manufacturers, environmental organizations, efficiency advocates, agricultural interests, labor organizations, and representatives of the faith community, among many others.”

I am a person of faith, and I’ll tell you what I believe: These guys just don’t get it.

An article from an American Farm Bureau publication points out, “Climate change supporters claim there will be droughts, floods, fire, loss of species, damage to agriculture, worsening air pollution and more, if the Senate does not pass the Climate Change bill.”

To draw from a recent Walter Williams article, “Are these the same people that in 1968 predicted there would be a major food shortage in the U.S., and in the 1970s, hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death.

“Or, in 1972, warned the world would run out of gold by 1981, mercury and silver by 1985, tin by 1987 and petroleum, copper, lead and natural gas by 1992.”

Either they are wrong or Texans are wrong. And we know Texans aren’t wrong. Here is how we know; it is supported by the facts. Let me tell you about the Texas experience.

In the last two years, if Texas were its own country, Texas had the highest GDP per person compared to the world’s largest economies. In a direct comparison of Texas with the U.S., U.K., Canada and France, Texas tops the charts at No. 1 in productivity per person.

Let me be perfectly clear: We must practice environmental stewardship. Agriculturalists are the original environmental stewards. Farmers know better than anyone you must take care of the land for it to take care of you.

In the words of our 34th President Dwight Eisenhower, “Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil, and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.”
Maybe Congress should continue this debate in the cornfields of America.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Obesity Awareness Week: Genetics Not Solely To Blame for Obesity

The Texas Department of Agriculture's Chief Nutrition Coordinator, Paige Abernathy, will be guest blogging throughout Texas Obesity Awareness Week. Read her blog to find out interesting obesity facts, and tips on losing weight.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains that genetics can play a role in obesity; however, behavior can also affect a person's weight. It appears that having a certain combination of genes may make an individual more susceptible to being overweight or obese, and outside factors such as low levels of physical activity and an abundant food supply are required for the issue to be expressed.

Genetics do not control individual behavior. For more information on genetics and obesity visit the CDC Web site.

GO TEXAN in South Padre Island

South Padre Island is a real Texas treasure. I recognized the town, alongside Mayor Pro-Tem JoAnn Evans and other city officials, for two special accomplishments. First, I presented a certificate to the Town of South Padre Island in recognition of its designation as the 30th GO TEXAN Certified Retirement Community in the great State of Texas. Then, South Padre Island received an award for being one of only nine Hardworking Rural Community winners in Texas.

Growing up in rural Texas, I learned many things. Among the lessons was to make sure I “read the signs” as I navigated the East Texas Pineywoods. I was glad I remembered that lesson in South Padre Island where ties are prohibited. One speaker at the Texas Conference On Regionalism from Connecticut wasn’t so fortunate. I observed as a South Padre Island police officer gave him (and the jovial group of Texas leaders watching) the choice of going to jail or having his tie cut in half while he was wearing it! Needless to say, I know where you could probably get a good deal on two pieces of a tie for the price of one.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Obesity Awareness Week: The Impact of Environment

The Texas Department of Agriculture's Chief Nutrition Coordinator, Paige Abernathy, will be guest blogging throughout Texas Obesity Awareness Week. Read her blog to find out interesting obesity facts, and tips on losing weight.

The environment you live in can make balancing your energy and diet easier or more difficult.

Things to look for to improve the balance between eating and exercising: sidewalks and streetlights that make walking in your neighborhood safer; grocery stores within walking or biking distance; worksite fitness facilities; restaurants that serve reasonable portion sizes; and schools that limit unhealthy choices. Request and support local policy that creates these types of environments.

For information on the nutrition standards for Texas schools visit the Healthy Living section of

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Obesity Awareness Week: Energy Imbalance

The Texas Department of Agriculture's Chief Nutrition Coordinator, Paige Abernathy, will be guest blogging throughout Texas Obesity Awareness Week. Read her blog to find out interesting obesity facts, and tips on losing weight.

An energy imbalance is simply consuming more calories than you expend through daily activity. To prevent obesity, you should be more physically active and monitor portions and calories.

If you eat more than usual one day, don’t forget to get in some extra exercise. It’s a balancing act that will pay off in the end. Try to keep your portion size down, and your exercise level up.

For individual nutrition recommendations and tips for the whole family visit

Texas Obesity Awareness Week 2009

The Texas Department of Agriculture's Chief Nutrition Coordinator, Paige Abernathy, will be guest blogging throughout Texas Obesity Awareness Week. Read her blog to find out interesting obesity facts, and tips on losing weight.

It’s Obesity Awareness week across Texas! This week will be dedicated to making a difference in the lives of all Texans. The number of overweight and obese Texans has been steadily growing over the past 20 years. Obesity can have a devastating impact on an individual, both physically and mentally, and on the community through the impact of health care costs and lost work productivity. Knowledge is power, and the better we all understand the obesity issue, the more chance we have at changing our fate.

Some Interesting Obesity Stats You Should Know
  • In 2007, nearly 66 percent of Texas adults were overweight or obese.
  • In 2007, 32 percent of Texas high-school students were overweight or obese.
  • If the current trends continue, 20 million or 75 percent of Texas adults will be overweight or obese by the year 2040, and the cost to Texas will quadruple from $10.5 billion today to as much as $39 billion by 2040.
  • According to the National Nutritional Health Survey, the prevalence of childhood obesity was greater in Texas in 2004-2005 than it was in the entire U.S. in 2003-2004. The overall prevalence of overweight and obesity in Texas schoolchildren was 42 percent for fourth-graders, 39 percent for eighth-graders and 36 percent for eleventh-graders in 2004-2005.
You can get more information on these stats here.

Check back throughout the week for weight loss and obesity prevention tips.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bridging the education gap in agriculture and business

As Texas Agriculture Commissioner, my primary duty is to promote the interests of Texas agriculture producers. In these challenging economic times, finding new markets and new opportunities for our producers is crucial to our prosperity and success. As difficult as times may be, we still must take every opportunity available to assist those in greater need. One of those opportunities presented itself this morning.

Today, I met with Governor Clement Wani Konga of Central Equatoria, Southern Sudan and a group of Sudanese legislators. Sudan has a rich agriculture history that has been wiped out by nearly a half-century of civil war. As older generations were lost to violence, decades of agricultural experience and knowledge died with them. As I considered the knowledge of animal husbandry and crop production learned from my father, I quickly understood their plight. Without the practical education passed on from generation to generation of farmers and ranchers, Sudan faces a tough return to its once- vibrant agriculture industry.

Fortunately, progress is being made. There is great potential for Texas A&M and the University of Texas to partner with Sudan to help bridge the education gap in agriculture and business practices. I also offered the opportunity to partner with TDA in our International Exchange Program. This program offers opportunities for Texas farmers and ranchers to host an international student and pass along knowledge of agricultural production. We currently have an agreement in place with Mexico and are working to establish similar programs with Canada and Sudan. Initiatives like these will be integral in helping reinvigorate the agriculture industry in Sudan. If you are interested in participating in this important program, please contact Jason Fenton in our Austin office at (512) 936-0761.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

In Memoriam: Norman Borlaug 

Texas, America and the world have lost a great man. Norman Borlaug passed away late Saturday night in Dallas. He was 95. The man often referred to as "the father of the green revolution," planted many seeds in his life, which will continue to grow his legacy for generations to come.

Mr. Borlaug is credited with feeding millions of the world's hungry. In 1970, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his contributions to high-yield crop varieties and bringing other agricultural innovations to the developing nations.

The Borlaug Institute, based at Texas A&M, is renowned around the globe for its nation building and ability to strengthen agriculture practices through scientific training and research opportunities.

I was recently honored to see Mr. Borlaug’s vision first hand. Earlier this year, I traveled to Iraq with a team from the Borlaug Institute. Scientists are in the war-torn nation giving Iraqi farmers the knowledge and support to rebuild the agriculture infrastructure. I viewed how the Institute's mission, “peace cannot be built on empty stomachs,” truly is working. Farms that have not produced for decades are now beginning to yield a bounty that will one day feed the Iraqi people and help the nation stand on its on own feet.

Norman Borlaug created a better world, gave people hope and left us with a road map to continue his dream of feeding those who are starving. He will be missed, but now he has passed the baton and it is up to us to ensure we continue to cultivate the vision he planted.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Let us not ever forget September 11, 2001

History teaches us many things. As a child, I took a damp cloth to wipe off the outer soot that built up on our BBQ pit. The only problem - my Dad had burgers on the grill at the time and my hand sizzled on the burning metal like a patty on a grill. As painful as it was and remembering how my parents and I all wished we could have avoided that excruciating experience, the event created a memory that has served me well the rest of my life.

As Americans we all share a memory that will last us a lifetime as well - the attacks of September 11, 2001. These devastating memories still linger eight years after the innocence of our nation was lost, people perished, and survivors and families wept.

Resolve was the collective mood after seeing our fellow countrymen fall and jump from burning buildings. Resolve was the attitude as we watched in disbelief our Pentagon smolder in flames. Resolve was the spirit that embodied the passengers on board United Flight 93 who took down the terrorists that took over their plane. Resolve was what drove brave men and women into crumbling structures to risk their own lives so they could save others.

Let's honor these families who fought then for our freedom and who continue to fight today to protect America from such hatred. Let us not ever forget the memory of this day.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Texas Consumers Want to GO TEXAN

I am always excited to hear about a Texas business deciding to GO TEXAN. Our award-winning GO TEXAN marketing program not only promotes quality Texas products, but also helps local businesses boost their bottom lines.

This article posted on D Magazine’s food and wine blog, “Side Dish” reminded me of how important the GO TEXAN mark really is to Texas consumers. Whether stamped on a product’s package or branded on a banner or sign, the GO TEXAN mark represents the pride and hard work put into every Texas-grown or Texas-made product.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Tangible evidence the market responds

An East Texas friend of mine was pretty upset (most Texans get this way pretty quickly when the federal government tries to impose a mandate on them) when our federal government proposed to mandate a national animal identification system and when they mandated Country of Origin Labeling, referred to as COOL. My initial thought was this: if consumers want their food sources verified, they will demonstrate it through their buying preferences.

A recent article found in the on-line version of cattlenetwork provides tangible proof the market will respond without Washington imposing a costly and certainly burdensome system. Because of an international market demand and trade agreement with Japan, U.S. Premium Beef is offering an age and source verification premium on cattle. Notice the theme in the drivers behind that decision? Answer: the market.