Monday, March 29, 2010

Get TDA News Directly in your Inbox

Whether it's agricultural production, consumer protection, economic development, marketing or healthy lifestyles, I know employees at the Texas Department of Agriculture are working hard each day to provide Texans with exceptional service. And now I'm excited to announce Texans can stay informed of what we are doing through a new subscription service at TDA.

You can subscribe to any or all of the publications TDA produces, or you can choose to only receive news and articles written about your preferred topics, such as Farming and Ranching or Healthy Living. And the best part is your selections will arrive directly in your e-mail inbox.

To subscribe, fill out the form below, or visit and click on Newsroom to find a link to Newsroom Publications.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

U.S. Pork Regains Entry into China as Sound Science Prevails

I'm pleased to say that on the heels of the recent announcement by Russia to accept U.S. pork imports, China also has now agreed to lift trade bans on U.S. pork and pork products.

Since the outbreak of the H1N1 human flu virus, many media outlets and foreign governments have ignored sound science, and instead, based news stories and trade decisions on false information about the safety of pork. These irresponsible decisions have caused a serious backlash for U.S. and Texas pork producers, costing them an estimated $2.2 billion in lost sales since the virus surfaced.

Prior to the outbreak, China imports of U.S. pork were valued at almost $275 million in 2008. The reopening of this market provides Texas pork producers, who marketed nearly 1.7 million hogs in 2008, an excellent trade opportunity. I look forward to enhanced trade relations with China and support on-going efforts to open additional markets for Texas agricultural products.

Monday, March 22, 2010

"Bienvenidos" to our Guests from Guatemala

Last week, the Guatemalan Vice-Minister of Agriculture Gonzalo Ochaeta made a special visit to Texas. After accepting an invitation by us at the Texas Department of Agriculture to attend the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, Vice-Minister Ochaeta and five Guatemalan delegates toured two GO TEXAN ranches. This gave us an excellent opportunity to market some of the superior livestock and genetics we have here in Texas to producers in Guatemala.

Guatemala has proven to be a valued trading partner with Texas cattlemen. Over the last three years, GO TEXAN livestock members have supplied Guatemalan ranchers with livestock and genetics worth more than $200,000. TDA looks forward to building lasting international relationships and promoting Texas livestock in Latin America.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Michigan: Where's the beef?

I love American-made vehicles. When I have a tough job out at my East Texas ranch I know I can depend on my American-made truck to help get the job done. With this in mind, I appreciate the good people of Michigan where our nation's auto industry is based.

However, I have a real beef with their state's governor. Sink your teeth into this: she has declared this Saturday "Meatout Day" in Michigan. Her proclamation encourages residents to not eat meat and try recipes made solely with fruits and vegetables. It gets worse. This day falls on National Agriculture Day. That is a real slap in the face to her state's livestock producers.

According to the National Agriculture Statistics Service, in 2008, cattle, hogs, sheep, poultry and other animals accounted for more than $750 million in cash receipts for the state of Michigan. That is an important economic engine for a state that is going through some tough economic times. To tell the citizens of Michigan to avoid eating meat is like telling people to stop buying Ford or Chevy trucks or cars.

I am an equal opportunity agriculturalist. I know fresh vegetables taste great with a big steak and you can't have pork chops without applesauce (unless of course you drown them in some GO TEXAN BBQ sauce). Research has shown eating a balanced diet that includes meat, fruits, vegetables and grains is healthy. So all of you out in Michigan, stock up on some meat this weekend and throw yourself a NCAA basketball watch party. While you munch down on those tasty meats, cheer on my Texas A&M Aggies. We can use all the help we can get. Whoop!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Water Connects Urban, Rural Texans

The urban-rural interconnection should be on the minds of all Texans. After all, this is not a case of “us” and “them,” but rather a case of “we,” as in, “we are all in this together."

David Langford, who lives in Comfort, Texas, is vice president emeritus of the Texas Wildlife Association and formerly served as CEO of the association for 12 years, recently wrote an editorial that was published in the Austin American-Statesman. His opinion brings to light the close connection all Texans have in regard to our water supply. It is well worth the read.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Park Cities Quail Highlights Prescribed Burns as Means for Protecting Habitats

The Park Cities Quail group, a newly formed nonprofit organization dedicated to the celebration of our Texas quail hunting heritage, recently held its annual banquet event in Dallas.

The event was packed with outdoorsmen and conservationists who are not only working to improve our Texas quail and wildlife habitat, but also are greatly improving the Texas economy.

A video presentation by Dr. Dale Rollins highlighted prescribed burns as a positive habitat management tool. All those who worked so diligently to make improvements to our state's prescribed burn procedures should be proud.

We need to continue to raise the awareness of this beneficial tool and how it can be used to reduce the threat of wildfires. As we all know, there will be fires; however, controlled, prescribed burns are effective in protecting Texas taxpayers from losing property and more importantly, their lives.

Thanks to the efforts of Dr. Rollins and groups like Park Cities Quail, we are able to further study and refine best practices for protecting and promoting our environment and wildlife natural habitats through prescribed burns and other methods.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Sen. Cornyn - a Friend to Texas Agriculture

Thank you Sen. John Cornyn for being a lead cosponsor on a senate resolution calling for Japan to base their trade policies on sound science. U.S. beef has been getting the short end of the stick for too long - and that means Texans are suffering!

Home to 14 percent of the nation's beef supply, you can bet your bottom dollar these discriminatory practices are negatively impacting the Texas beef industry and our state's economy.

Let's hope the administration says enough is enough and we get some much-needed equitable treatment.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Forecast Looks Bright for Texas Cotton

It’s good to be able to travel and say, “If Texas were its own country, we would be the fifth-largest, cotton-producing nation in the world!” So, you can just imagine in a state where cotton is king, hearing some good news forecasts for cotton prices over the next 10 years is extremely welcome.

According to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, agricultural economists are indicating an increased world demand for cotton and overall lower production that will likely drive up prices, adding dollars to our economy. Considering agriculture comprises about 9.5 percent of our entire state economy, a healthy cotton industry will bring more jobs and investment to Texas - something that will benefit all Texas consumers. At a time when our economy is filled with uncertainty, we need all the positive news we can get.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Good News - U.S. Beef Returns to Taiwan

Just about everyone deeply involved in production agriculture agrees expanding access to international markets is absolutely essential to maintaining profitability and continuing domestic food production. That is why it was such good news to see the story in CattleNetwork reporting the return of U.S. bone-in-beef to Taiwan.

In fact, the five-star Sherwood Taipei Hotel is reported to use only U.S. beef in its signature restaurant. I know my fellow Texas cattlemen must be pleased to see the work being done by the Texas Beef Council, the Beef Checkoff and USDA Market Access Program funds. Now, for the sake of domestic food independence, let's hope consumers around the world continue to demand Texas beef!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Trade Ban Lifted

It’s good to hear some positive news for our U.S. pork producers. As you know, the past year has been very rough for them. Prices were already declining when they were sent into a tailspin following the H1N1 influenza pandemic, as the world incorrectly tied the outbreak to swine.

Fortunately, good news comes to the pork industry as the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Trade Representative have announced an agreement to reopen the Russian market to U.S. pork. This new opportunity provides a timely boost to this important sector of the agriculture industry during tough economic times.

For more information on this news, visit this site.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Fair Trade for All Industries

Every once in a while, a perfect moment comes along to make a point – an opportunity to drive a message about fairness and not being hypocritical. During a recent hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Nebraska Sen. Mike Johanns had such an occasion while hearing testimony on Toyota’s problems.

Johanns pondered what Japan would think if the U.S. treated the Japanese car company the way the Japanese treated and continue to treat the American beef industry. Johanns’ testimony can be seen here; it lasts about four minutes, but is worth the watch. He starts getting into this issue at just after the two-minute mark.

Additionally, a recent CattleNetwork story reported that “U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, making a trip to Japan, will argue that U.S. regulators are treating Toyota more fairly than their Japanese counterparts treat American beef, news service AFP reported.”

Maybe Sec. LaHood needs to do what we did in Texas when Canada and Mexico reached an agreement to accept Canadian cattle and left Texas and the rest of the U.S. cattle producers sitting on the sidelines – take bold and swift action! We need these guys to push this issue and defend our consumers, our beef industry and our motorists – huge parts of the Texas economy that result in significant jobs and investment.

China Tariffs Could Mean Trouble for Texas Poultry Industry

We are all expecting 2010 to show significant signs of improvement for our economy, but the article attached below indicates 2010 is starting out with tough obstacles for U.S. poultry producers.

The article below from, describes new import tariffs being placed on U.S. poultry headed to China. Our poultry producers have already faced significant challenges over the past few years with many of our leading companies struggling with extreme financial difficulties. Lone Star State producers have been especially hard hit due to an ongoing Chinese ban on Texas poultry which began in January 2009. Assuming a resolution to the Chinese ban can be found, Texas producers will still face the burden of these new, across-the-board tariffs being placed on U.S. poultry.

Hopefully our U.S. trade negotiators can find quick solutions to this issue. Losing market access to places like China and Russia for any extended time period will mean the loss of jobs and investment in the U.S., and certainly here in Texas.

This article demonstrates how important open markets are for all U.S. agriculture producers, and frankly, to you the consumer. By selling abroad and maintaining a stable economic future for our companies, domestic consumers can be assured of a continued, safe and local food supply that’s affordable.

U.S. poultry industry hit hard by China tariffs
By Meatingplace Editors on 3/1/2010

U.S. poultry companies are taking a "big hit" from tariffs placed on U.S. chicken imports by China in February as the repercussions reverberate across the industry, the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council said.

U.S. companies exported $649.2 million worth of chicken products to China last year, making China the second-largest importer of U.S. chicken behind Russia, according to USAPEEC.

But tariffs of up to 105.4 percent on U.S. chicken imports that went into effect on Feb. 13 have caused that market to dry up. Companies have 20 days to appeal the decision.

"The anti-dumping duties exclude U.S. chicken from the Chinese market. It just makes it not feasible to ship there. We're out of the market, period," USAPEEC spokesman Toby Moore told Meatingplace.

About half of the exports to China are chicken paws, which have little value in the United States but can fetch 60 cents to 80 cents a pound in China. The remainder consists of wing tips, mid-joints and leg quarters.

Other markets such as Hong Kong, the Philippines and Vietnam are absorbing some, but not all, of the U.S. chicken that would have been destined for China. "We're hearing some companies are just shutting down paw production completely," Moore said in an interview.

China imposed the duties after its Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) conducted an unfair trade practices investigation last fall and concluded the country's local producers had been hurt by U.S. products sold at unfairly low prices.

All U.S. processors are subject to the tariffs, which vary by company. The schedule of tariffs is posted on MOFCOM's Web site.

Three companies selected to participate in MOFCOM's investigation received individualized import duties, with Tyson Foods at 43.1 percent, Keystone Foods at 44 percent and Pilgrim's Pride at 80.5 percent.

Companies that registered for the investigation but were not selected, including Sanderson Farms, would pay a weighted average rate of 64.5 percent. All others face the highest tariff of 105.4 percent.

Sanderson Farms last week said it is appealing the duty. (See on Meatingplace, Feb. 23, 2010.)

USAPEEC says it is protesting the tariffs on behalf of the industry on the grounds that U.S. export practices do not constitute dumping. China's Commerce Ministry is expected to make a final determination this fall, Moore said.

U.S. companies also face separate Chinese tariffs known as countervailing duties, on top of the anti-dumping duties, stemming from China's contention that U.S. feed grain subsidies are illegal.

U.S. exporters have also been shut out of the Russian market due to the country's recent ban on poultry rinsed with chlorine.

"We're out of China and we're out of Russia in one fell swoop," Moore said.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

FFA Day at the Capitol

Last Thursday was the first-ever FFA Day at the Texas Capitol. Around 500 of the best and brightest Texas FFA students spent the day interacting with lawmakers and learning how the government works on their behalf. They also learned more about how they can become part of the law-making process.

Texas FFA is the largest state association in the national FFA organization. The Texas Association represents one-seventh of the national FFA members.

I am so proud that FFA is giving students from both rural and urban backgrounds opportunities to learn about the diverse choices they have today to be a part of Texas agriculture. From large animal veterinarians and biology researchers to marketing specialists and economic experts, today’s agriculture career opportunities are much broader than they were a generation ago. Texas agriculture will continue to be a big part of our state’s economy, and I’m glad FFA is preparing Texas’ brightest leaders.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Government Meddling Costs Jobs, Hurts Consumers

It doesn’t take an economist (or climatologist) to understand this: People and businesses vote with their feet. Look at the mass exodus of population and profitability leaving high-cost, high-tax states like California, Pennsylvania and New York.

Businesses of all types have to make a profit to pay their employees and expenses, and reinvest for next year. Unnecessary government meddling only drives out investors and provides a disincentive to do business in a particular locale, which ultimately hurts consumers.

The agriculture community has been watching the EPA very closely since the United States Supreme Court told us in the Massachusetts v. EPA case of 2007 that the EPA has the authority to regulate greenhouse gases through the Clean Air Act. On behalf of everyone who appreciates Texas-grown products, I have pleaded with the new administration on four separate occasions expressing serious concerns about the determination of greenhouse gases as an endangerment and the resulting regulatory scheme that is certain to follow.

The very basis of the EPA’s decision has continually been called into question. Just look at this excerpt from the article pasted below:

John Christy, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Alabama at Huntsville and once a ranking member of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, says the temperature records have been compromised and cannot be relied on. The findings of weather stations that collected temperature data were distorted by location. Several were located near air-conditioning units and on waste-treatment plants; one was next to a waste incinerator. Still another was built at Rome’s international airport and catches the hot exhaust of taxiing jetliners.

With evidence like this from numerous sources, you shouldn’t have to wonder why so many of your statewide elected officials said enough is enough and challenged the EPA. We must base our regulatory decisions on solid evidence. Yes, let’s continue to find new and better ways to be good stewards of our environment, but let’s also use some solid thinking along the way. Applying some common sense can go along way in saving dollars and cents.

If you don’t think these proposed policies threaten the safety and soundness of your food, just think about California’s 12 percent unemployment rate and ask yourself why those jobs left the state.

Enjoy this Washington Times story:
by Wesley Pruden

You can fool some of the people some of the time, as Abraham Lincoln observed, and you even can fool all the people some of the time. But you can't fool all the people all the time. Al Gore and his friends got so excited about points one and especially point two that they forgot point three.

Not everybody is on to the global-warming scam, not yet, but all the people — or enough of them — are getting there. "Global warming," or even "climate change" as Al's marketing men now insist that it be called, is becoming the stuff of jests and jokes. Sen. James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, a Republican, built an igloo of that hot stuff that buried Washington last week on the Capitol lawn and dubbed it "Al Gore's new home."

Across the Potomac, the Republicans in Virginia filmed a television commercial called "12 inches of global warming" and invited two Virginia congressmen, both Democrats who voted for the infamous cap-and-trade legislation, to help with the shovel that will become the official state tool before the streets thaw.

One day this week, there was measurable snow on the ground in 50 states. (No report yet from the other seven of the "57 states" President Obama once said he was campaigning to be the president of.) Even Hawaii reported snow on some of its mountain peaks, and several towns in northwestern Florida were lightly dusted, like the powdered sugar on a cop's doughnut.

A few snowflakes, or even a lot of snowflakes, is hardly proof that the great global-warming scare is a fraud and a swindle, but the collapse of the "science" of global warming is transforming even the sheep into skeptics. Jeff Masters of the Weather Underground — an Internet blog and not to be confused with the violent underground Weathermen of the sordid '60s — observes that characteristics of climate must be measured carefully over the decades and even centuries, not by occasional blizzards and storms.

But political fraud and scientific swindle can be measured by collapsing "science." The University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit in Britain was regarded as the leader in climate research and the fount of raw data on which the science was based until leaked e-mails between researchers revealed evidence of doctoring of data and manipulation of evidence. The director of the research unit, professor Phil Jones, was regarded as an archbishop in the Church of Global Warming. He was pressured to resign in the wake of the scandal. Now he has conceded to an interviewer from the BBC that based on the evidence in his findings, the globe might have been warmer in medieval times. If so, the notion that fluctuations in earthly temperatures are man-made is rendered just that, a man-made notion.

The learned professor told his interviewer that for the past 15 years there has been no "statistically significant" warming. He conceded that he has lost track of many of the relevant papers — that his office was overwhelmed by the clutter of paper. Some of the crucial data to back up scare stories might be lying under other stuff, but he's not sure. An environmental analyst for the BBC said the professor told him that his "strengths" include "integrity" and "doggedness" but not record-keeping and "office tidying." He's just not dogged about keeping things straight.

This was good enough in the early years of the scam, but not any longer. John Christy, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Alabama at Huntsville and once a ranking member of the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, says the temperature records have been compromised and cannot be relied on. The findings of weather stations that collected temperature data were distorted by location. Several were located near air-conditioning units and on waste-treatment plants; one was next to a waste incinerator. Still another was built at Rome's international airport and catches the hot exhaust of taxiing jetliners.

Terry Mills, a professor of applied statistics at Britain's Loughborough University, looks at the U.N. panel's data and applies a little skepticism. "The earth," he told London's Daily Mail, "has gone through warming spells like these at least twice before in the last thousand years."

The global-warming hysteria, on which the Obama administration wants to base enormous new tax burdens, is just about as reliable as the weather hysteria presented nightly on your favorite television channel. Man is driven by his ego and finds it impossible to think even the weather is not all about him.

Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Salute to Texas Independence Day

Today my Lone Star pride beams brighter than usual as we celebrate Texas Independence Day and honor the founding freedom fighters who, 174 years ago, won our independence from Mexico.

In a state that’s world-renowned for being built on grit, courage and sacrifice, March 2, 1836, stands as our proudest moment - and that’s saying a lot! Texas is the greatest state in the greatest country on earth and for that we can thank Sam Houston, Stephen F. Austin, Lorenzo de Zavala, Davy Crockett and countless other everyday men and women whose spirits and resolve were anything but ordinary. Texas wasn’t handed to us or discovered by accident; it was fought for and claimed by brave pioneers and their families who envisioned prosperity through independence, freedom through sacrifice and a government of their own.

More than a century after declaring independence on the Brazos River in Washington County, Texans still stand apart. We are a proud people who respect our heritage, uphold our traditions and look toward tomorrow with the same integrity, determination and pride on which our forefathers mapped the foundation - and future - of the great state of Texas.

Happy Independence Day, Texas.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Texas on Top in Job Growth

Wow! That is the one word that immediately comes to mind when viewing the map of the USDA Economic Research Service that shows the U.S. employment change from the fourth quarter 2007 (beginning of the current recession) through the fourth quarter 2009.

In this map, Texas stands out like a shining Lone Star. Why? Lots of reasons, but mainly because Texans have a no nonsense, pay as you go, roll up your sleeves, business-friendly, get the job done attitude.

It is no coincidence that Texas is faring so much better than virtually every other state and why jobs and people keep coming to Texas. Three key facts make Texas stand out: 1) relatively low taxes; 2) fair courts; and, 3) a predicable and stable regulatory environment. These elements will influence our economy as long as economic prosperity is driven by economic investment, and as long as economic investment is driven by profit opportunity. This is an important concept to keep in mind because dollars will flow where they find the greatest return. If we want jobs for Texans, we have to keep attracting that investment here.

During these tough times when we all have to tighten our belts, it is important we don't forget the fundamentals that have enabled our economy to grow and for our citizens to prosper. Tough times don't last - tax increases do! We want our economy to rebound and for jobs to flourish. We want others to want to be a part of the prosperity that can be found by those who are willing to work hard, save, invest and even take a measured risk.

This map says a lot about the Lone Star State. Let's all do our part to make Texas shine even brighter when the next snap shot is taken.