Friday, February 26, 2010

Food for Thought...Thoughts on Food

At a time when U.S. poultry producers seem to have turned the corner on a very tough year - and Texas-based Pilgrim’s Pride came out of bankruptcy and was acquired by JBS - a Reuters news report says one of the world’s largest markets for U.S.-based chicken parts will levy a hefty new tariff on our exports.

Considering all that the U.S. imports from China, it’s hard to believe such action would even be debated, much less implemented. I hope our negotiators can take quick action to avert this trade-disrupting action.

The poultry industry continues to grow here in Texas. While totals are not yet available for 2009, cash receipts from poultry and eggs totaled $2.02 billion in 2008, and production continues to expand. We need open and unrestricted access to international markets in order to maintain this growing and productive poultry industry. Let’s hope the voice of reason prevails in our negotiations with China.

A link to the Reuters story can be found here.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Building our Future with Bioenergy

Last week, I met with some of the brightest leaders in the Texas scientific community to lay the foundation for the Texas Bioenergy Research Committee. This committee of private, academic and state researchers will act in support of the Texas Bioenergy Policy Council, which I blogged about in December.

The committee will begin gathering research on the variety of Texas-grown feedstocks that go into the production of bioenergy. We will then examine engineering and logistical challenges to widespread adoption, cutting-edge research on the next generation of feedstocks and federal initiatives to promote the bioenergy industry.

You can learn more about the work of the policy council and research committee on the Texas Department of Agriculture's Web site Just look under “Most Popular Links.”

FFA - Not Just a Rural Thing

Texas FFA and 4-H programs are absolutely the best when it comes to training future leaders, developing responsible citizens and opening up minds to the big world we live in – without abandoning the heritage that brought us to the level of prosperity we enjoy today.

Even more interesting is that these programs attract a multitude of students who may not be engaged or have a history in production agriculture. Folks, that is a good thing.

With only 2 percent of our population actually engaged in production agriculture, we need allies; we need bright thinkers in related fields; and we desperately need more people in this world who have an appreciation and abiding respect for the role our farmers and ranchers play in enabling us to have a safe society through a safe and abundant food supply.

I encourage you to read this USA Today article that defines some real successes among those urban students who have participated in these outstanding leadership programs. The byline says St. Louis, but the story could easily be duplicated in any city in Texas.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Food for Thought ...Thoughts on Food

Texans do a terrific job of promoting food independence, producing affordable and safe food, and providing jobs in our economy because of our vast family farming and ranching operations. Thanks to this commitment and success, Americans spend less of their disposable income on food than any other country in the world.

This week, Feb. 21-27, marks Food Check-Out Week – the time of year when the average American’s cumulative income for the still freshly new year reaches a level to cover their food expenditure needs for the entire year. I can think of no better time to celebrate the abundance of affordable food Texans and Americans alike are able to enjoy thanks to the continuous diligence of our farmers and ranchers.

No matter how affordable our food continues to be, the fact remains that many consumers still struggle to provide for their families. In an effort to assist these families, the American Farm Bureau has created a list of tips for eating healthy on a tight budget.

As always, my thanks go out to our hard-working farmers and ranchers who work tirelessly to help Texans eat well.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Citrus Greening Informational Video Preview

Yesterday I traveled to a citrus grove in the Rio Grande Valley to shoot an informational video on the effects of citrus greening. Citrus greening is a disease that could devastate the Texas citrus industry if we don't take steps to stop it now.

We’ve put together a special preview of the video for you to watch until the final video is released. Be sure to check in the coming weeks to see the final product.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A day in the Rio Grande Valley

Today I traveled to the powerfully productive Rio Grande Valley. It was great see sunshine and enjoy 65-degree temperatures. Isn’t Texas a great state?

My first stop was an orange grove near Santa Rosa. TDA is working with the citrus industry to produce an informative video about the threat of citrus greening. The disease is not harmful to human health, but could cause severe economic damage and cost jobs by crippling our citrus industry. So far, citrus greening has not been detected in Texas, but has devastated the Florida citrus industry. You can learn more by clicking on The video we worked on today should be posted here and on the TDA Web site in a few weeks.

Our next stop was at the Rio Grande Sugar Mill in Santa Rosa. This is the only sugar mill in Texas and processes 40,000 acres of sugar cane each year. The mill is also a model for renewable energy. The facility produces electricity from biomass and 100 percent of its internal energy needs are met by bioenergy. The sugar mill also produces excess energy that is sent to the electrical grid in enough quantities to power the entire nearby town of Santa Rosa.

I wrapped up today’s travels by visiting with a roundtable meeting of diversified growers. The Valley is a good example of why Texas agriculture is so strong and resilient.

Texas consumers can be confident our state’s farmers and ranchers are fighting hard to meet their needs.

A Texas-Sized Fight Against Flawed Science

In a unified effort to protect Texas’ $106 billion agriculture industry, this week I joined Gov. Rick Perry and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott in a collective challenge against the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

By relying on data from the UN panel on climate change that has been refuted by many leading sources, EPA claims greenhouse gases are harmful to the environment and mankind, and therefore warrant costly regulation that would hit Texas farmers, ranchers and consumers squarely in the wallet.

Make no mistake, the future of Texas agriculture depends on sound environmental principles, and our industry invests billions to find the right solutions to protect our precious natural resources. The EPA’s approach that we challenged today will drive the hard-working agriculture producers who provide us with the safest, most abundant food supply in the world out of business. Texans don’t like being dependent on foreign oil; they certainly don’t want to be dependent on foreign food.

For video and more photos of the announcement, or to read the actual petition, click here or visit

Monday, February 15, 2010

In Honor of Presidents Day

As a proud American, I am humbled and thankful today as we celebrate Presidents Day in honor of two of our nation’s greatest leaders.

A federal holiday, Presidents Day was originally established to honor George Washington and later, Abraham Lincoln. Besides sharing February birthdays, Washington and Lincoln also shared unrivaled leadership abilities, patriotic vision and immeasurable accomplishments in the pursuit of life, liberty and justice for all.

Where would we be today without the unselfish patriotism of these great men? Washington and Lincoln undoubtedly laid the foundation and building blocks on which this nation was built. Their precedents are the rules by which we live, govern and prosper. Theirs are the constitutions by which we defend our freedoms, guard our borders and protect our allies near and far.

Our generation of Americans inherited a nation of prosperity and strength that is unrivaled around the globe. For that, we salute our leaders, thank our troops and appreciate the freedoms and liberties that Washington and Lincoln fought to establish and preserve. The question we must each ask of ourselves is “what kind of nation will we pass along to the next generation of Americans?”

Happy Presidents Day, America.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Guest Blogger: Deputy Commissioner Drew DeBerry

I participated in a press conference this week, which was hosted by the Capital Area Food Bank to announce a new study by Feeding America that shows an increasing number of Americans rely on food banks. The study shows in Texas, food banks serve about 3 million people annually.

This new information coupled with the fact that Texas leads the nation in children who are food insecure is simply unacceptable. We at the Texas Department of Agriculture are focused on implementing solutions by working with partners, such as schools, churches, food banks and home-delivered meal providers.

Commissioner Staples established the Texans Feeding Texans initiative to recognize and call to action public-private partnerships under a singular and focused goal of improving the health of all Texans. Through this initiative, the Commissioner has issued a formal challenge to all Texas mayors to join this fight against hunger by accepting the TDA Mayors Challenge and increase the number of summer meals provided to children in Texas through assistance programs administered by TDA. Call your mayor and encourage their acceptance of this important challenge.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

2010 Texas Agriculture Outlook

A new year is upon us, but it’s never too early to look toward the optimism and good news ahead for Texas agriculture. Texas took a big hit in 2009 because of the drought and a sluggish economy, but there are already some signs 2010 could be a year of relief and rebound.

Texas cotton producers, in particular, may see some market price improvements this year. Reduced U.S. cotton production and strong global demand have actually helped cotton prices recover recently. As the No. 1 cotton-producing state in the nation and a leader around the world, this is terrific news for Texas.

Two important things Texas producers always keep in mind are operating costs and unpredictable weather conditions. The weather in places like Korea, Australia and Brazil can affect global supply and demand, which can impact us, for better or worse, right here in Texas. The reality is, if we’re going to do business in a global marketplace, we’re going to share the challenges and successes of our worldwide trading partners.

As always, I’m optimistic about the future of the $106 billion economic engine Texas agriculture fuels and I encourage all Texans to buy local to help strengthen the economy of the Lone Star State so we can take care of our own while continuing to meet the worldwide demand that helps make Texas a powerhouse of productivity.

Food for Thought…Thoughts on Food

Cattlemen from around the United States recently converged in San Antonio for the annual National Cattlemen’s Beef Association convention. The educational aspect of the meeting brought together industry leaders from across the nation, including many from right here in the Lone Star State.

One panel focused its discussion on three basic objectives that I believe anyone involved in agriculture at any level should take to heart:

1. Reopen international markets without politically motivated restrictions.
2. Invest in agricultural education to assure a stream of talent for the industry.
3. Embrace technology that will help gather critical data for making better decisions at the enterprise level, while growing consumer trust and improving overall beef demand.

Whether you are in involved in the production of beef cattle, poultry, cotton or corn, I think we all agree these are extremely important elements to incorporate as we all work to make 2010 prosperous and ensure food and economic security for Texas.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Haiti Gets Help, But Much More is Needed

Nearly three weeks after a devastating earthquake left the nation in ruin, the stories of heartache and hope continue to pour from Haiti. With the death toll in the hundreds of thousands and nearly 2 million survivors in dire need of food, water, shelter and medical attention, the Haiti rescue and relief effort needs all the help it can get - and then some.

Here in the Lone Star State, the Texas Peanut Producers Board is working tirelessly in partnership with the entire United States peanut industry to help deliver more than $90,000 in much-needed peanut butter to the hungry people of Haiti. The story of these extraordinary efforts can be read here.

While I wholeheartedly salute these hardworking Texans and their selfless compassion, they cannot go it alone. As Haiti’s unimaginable struggle continues, I implore all of our state’s agriculture producers and Texas citizens to give what they can. Whether it’s a surplus food commodity, monetary donation or an offering of volunteerism, your gifts are a godsend to those who struggle hour by the hour, day by day against agonizing odds. Please give what you can. To find out how you can help, go here.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Busy Week for the Texas Department of Agriculture

Last week was another busy week at TDA. We started off the week in Houston to roll out a new statewide fuel quality program to protect consumers from buying bad fuel. From there, I spoke to Brazos Valley leaders at their 2010 Economic Outlook Conference and met with leaders of the Texas Wildlife Association to discuss the upcoming legislative session.

I also spoke to local leaders with the Heart of Texas Council of Governments and welcomed Texas and out-of-state guests to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Convention in San Antonio.

Throughout my travels, I was reminded that Washington continues to push policies like Cap and Trade legislation that threaten our domestic food production. There also is an initiative aimed at extending the regulatory authority of the Clean Water Act to include the stock tanks on your farm or ranch.

We don’t need either of these proposals, and after traveling to meet with my colleagues across the state, I feel more strongly than ever that we must send a unified and powerful message to federal decision makers to discourage these federal encroachments.