Thursday, December 31, 2009

A small suggestion for a successful New Year

The coming new year brings a chance for new beginnings, but it also can bring the pressure of achieving lofty new goals.

Some Texans will resolve to lose weight, quit bad habits or climb the career ladder. Others may plan to travel, master a new skill or pursue a lifelong passion.

While any positive change is admirable, it’s important to remember the small things. Small changes can make big differences. They also are easier to sustain, lending longevity to their rewards.

This new year, find a few more minutes each day to spend with your family. Feed your children healthier snacks. Serve your community. Explore your faith. Go for a short, daily walk.

A change doesn’t have to take all your free time or leave you exhausted after a hard day’s work. It doesn’t have to be expensive or go against unreasonable odds in order to be successful. A little can mean a lot, and small steps can go a long way.

In 2010, resolve to make a difference no matter how big or small. At the end of the year, we’ll all be glad you did.

Happy New Year, Texas!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Give the Gift of Giving

With the spirit of Christmas upon us, I am reminded it is better to give than to receive. As you make your holiday shopping list (and check it twice), I encourage you to be mindful of those in need and consider the gift of giving.

Giving doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, it can cost little or nothing at all. Give your knowledge to a child who needs a mentor. Give surplus clothing to those who are cold. Give food to help feed the hungry.

Give time to a homebound neighbor who needs help with overdue errands. Give prayers to those in uniform who stand watch so we may enjoy peace. Give thanks to our farmers and ranchers who provide safe and affordable food.

The list is long enough to last all year, so this Christmas give the gift of giving. The smiles and thanks you receive in return will be the greatest gifts of all.

Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Family Land Heritage Program Keeps Tradition Alive

During this Christmas season, I encourage all Texans to appreciate the value of family. The team here at the Texas Department of Agriculture has an excellent reminder as we are currently busy certifying applications for the Family Land Heritage (FLH) program. Last week was the deadline to submit applications for this year. The FLH program recognizes Texas farms and ranches that have been in continuous agricultural production by the same family for 100 years or more.

It is rewarding to honor those families who have worked the land for generations and have managed to balance the seemingly unending pressures of family businesses with the infinite rewards of family bonds. These individuals, along with their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents, have worked tirelessly through the years to provide Texans with life-sustaining food and fiber.

As we complete our certification process, it appears we will honor nearly 100 families at our annual, summertime FLH ceremony. I am excited because that is an increase from our previous ceremony. Thank you to those families who submitted their applications and continue to make Texas a powerhouse of agricultural production. I look forward to meeting you all next year when we hold our FLH ceremony at the Capitol.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Texas A&M ranked in national study

While our football team at Texas A&M hasn’t ranked too high on the national stage lately (we are making great improvement), leadership in agriculture has been consistent over the years.

Texas A&M’s Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications was recently ranked second in the nation among 82 universities with similar programs. The programs were ranked in the study, “Characteristics of Distinguished Programs of Agricultural Education,” conducted by a professor from Ohio State, whose graduate team surveyed administrators across the country. They were asked to rank the agricultural programs they held in “highest professional regard.” Texas A&M was recognized by many as the most distinguished, based on factors such as faculty, research and international emphasis. A&M specifically was noted for its scope of research, leadership programs and faculty.

Congratulations to all those who contributed to achieving this national recognition. Your efforts are having a profound impact on Texas agriculture and our entire world.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Texas food banks get $2 million to feed hungry Texans

I was in Lubbock today to award the Texas Food Bank Network a $2 million grant. The Texans Feeding Texans: Surplus Agricultural Products Grant will be used by 19 food banks across the state to purchase and distribute surplus agricultural products from Texas farms.

In the last year, Texas food banks have experienced a 30 percent increase in demand. This grant is a win for farmers who have excess products and a win for hungry Texans in need of nutritious foods. It is also a win for Texas taxpayers as study after study has shown well fed children perform better in the classroom and a healthier population has a lower need for medical attention.

I appreciate the Legislature for recognizing the tremendous demand food banks are facing and making funds available to help feed hungry Texans. You can find out more about TDA’s Texans Feeding Texans program here. You can also donate directly to the Texas Food Bank Network by clicking here.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Making Texas a leader in the sustainable bioenergy industry

On Thursday, I chaired the first meeting of the Texas Bioenergy Policy Council. The council was created by the 81st Texas Legislature to make the state a leader in biofuel and biomass production. The group is charged with identifying a strategy to attract a sustainable bioenergy industry to Texas.

As we go forward, the council should ensure the policy we recommend is sustainable, equitable and defensible. The bioenergy industry in Texas must be able to stand on its own two feet; the government should not set mandates and choose winners and losers; and taxpayers must have confidence in and see benefits from renewable energy policy.

I was very impressed Thursday with the council members’ input and look forward to working with the group to find a blueprint for bioenergy success in Texas.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Interview on Agricultural Issues with KFLP

I recently spoke with KFLP's Tony St. James regarding several hot Texas agriculture issues.

We talked about TDA's boll weevil program, Country of Origin Labeling, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act and how these issues are affecting Texas farmers and ranchers.

Click here to listen to the interview.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Vaccines Tested to Combat E. coli in Beef

Beef is to Texas like lobster is to Maine – a valuable commodity that just happens to taste good, too (obviously beef is better, but you get my point.) So Texans have more reasons than most for ensuring that we maintain the proud statistic of having the safest food supply in the world.

According to a NY Times article published Dec. 3, researchers believe E. coli vaccines, like the ones mentioned as being tested in the article, can reduce the number of animals carrying the bacteria by 65 to 75 percent.

While the debate regarding who will pick up the tab for the vaccines is ongoing, the end result could be an end to E. coli related food borne illnesses. That is great news, since the bacteria causes illnesses in about 73,000 Americans each year.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Remembering Pearl Harbor

As we remember and honor our troops who were attacked 68 years ago at Pearl Harbor, we are reminded of the ongoing sacrifices made by our men and women in the armed forces. For those brave public servants stationed around the world today, the threat of ambush is as real as it was in 1941. Our troops who face that threat and stand ready to defeat it are the reason we enjoy peace on the home front. Please join me on this important anniversary in saluting our men in women in uniform while we remember those who fought and fell in years past so that we might enjoy the liberties bestowed upon us today.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Whose water is it???

The Washington Times has an article today explaining the far-reaching impact of pending federal legislation to take control of any type of water and give it directly to the federal government. Now, just because a continued expansion of national powers and an ongoing dilution of state’s rights and individual freedoms seems to be the norm these days, no one – and especially no Texan – needs to let their guard down for one minute.

It is essential we take every opportunity to remind those in Congress to read the 10th Amendment to the United States Constitution. Actually, they need to do more than read it; they need to adhere to the pledge they made when they laid down a hand on the Bible, raised their right hand and promised to uphold the Constitution.

Bill Threatens Texas Farmers and Ranchers

In a 225-200 vote, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill providing a so-called “permanent fix” to the estate tax. This tax threatens to force Texas farmers and ranchers out of the agriculture business when family members pass away and leave the land to a new generation.

I am glad Congress is interested in solving this problem once and for all. Furthermore, I hope their attempt to fix this problem will result in a truly permanent resolution. The bill approved would still result in many Texas farmers and ranchers giving 45 percent of their operations to Uncle Sam simply because they died. I took the opportunity to let the Texas Congressional delegation know that Texas producers need more protection from the IRS in order to continue providing a safe, reliable source of food and fiber.

The bill now moves on to the U.S. Senate. You can read my letter by clicking here or by visiting our TDA Web site at and clicking on Newsroom/Reading Room.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Is cotton’s kingdom getting bigger?

If Texas were its own country (most Texans think this is a pretty good idea), it would be the sixth largest cotton-producing nation in the world. In fact, 39 percent of the cotton grown in the United States is grown in the Lone Star State. To both rural and urban Texans alike, this means jobs, capital investment and opportunity.

So, finding even more uses for the fluffy fiber and its seed is always good news. I remember feeding cottonseed meal to our cattle during the winter in East Texas, and our cows would fight vigorously to be the first in line. Researchers now say cottonseed is even closer to being used as a human food source. Instead of cattle pushing one another around, there may soon be a few elbows at the table. Click on this link to find out more. And, keep your fork handy.