Monday, May 31, 2010

A Salute to our Soldiers on Memorial Day

While many people have big plans with family and friends this holiday weekend, I hope everyone takes a moment to remember the meaning of Memorial Day. The traditional barbecues, concerts and sporting events all make for great fun, but they are merely the rituals and not the reason for this day.

A worthy tribute if ever there was one, Memorial Day remembers those men and women who died in military service while wearing the uniform of our great country. Today, as we enjoy the freedom and festivities made possible by our servicemen and women, let us not forget the families who view Memorial Day through somber eyes. They will never forget the loss of their loved ones and neither should we. Wearing the uniform of the United States requires the utmost courage and sacrifice - and for many, that sacrifice runs painfully deep.

Please take a moment to pray for the families of these men and women, and thank someone who has so bravely and selflessly sacrificed to ensure we have a free and sovereign nation under God. As we salute our heroes in the armed forces, I also salute you, the everyday heroes who keep Texas on the road to prosperity.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Wall That Heals

I am beginning this holiday weekend with a somber reminder of what Memorial Day commemorates - the courageous men and women who died in military service for our blessed nation. I will blog more about our debt to these heroes later this weekend, but wanted to share some photos and talk about what I saw on Thursday.

The Wall that Heals is on display in Sugar Land this weekend. “The Wall” is a traveling half-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. that visits communities throughout the United States. Viewing the 58,261 names of our fallen soldiers will take your breath away. It also makes you proud to be an American as it reminds you of the service and sacrifice of our brave military men and women, and their families who suffer unbearable heartache so we may live free. Let us never forget.

The Wall that Heals will be at the Sugar Land Memorial Park through Memorial Day. I encourage you to pay a visit and offer your respect at The Wall and in your heart this Memorial Day weekend.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

GO TEXAN WineCast Episode 5- Dallas Wine Trail

This GO TEXAN WineCast highlights wineries in the Dallas area. A cluster of four urban wineries, this trail brings the rural winery experience to the heart of Dallas.

Watch the video here:

You can go to to view videos on other trails located across our state and to find out more about all Texas wines and wineries have to offer.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Walmart Puts Their Money Where the Mouths Are

As the nation's agricultural leader on many fronts, as well as the national leader for children who are food insecure, we must ask the question: How can Texas be a leader in both agriculture and food insecurity among children? It's a question that not only needs an answer, but also winning strategies to end hunger in the Lone Star State.

With this in mind, you can imagine my elation when Walmart announced its generous commitment to donate $2 billion toward U.S. hunger relief. In Texas, Walmart's donation will result in 77 million meals to food banks across our state.

Thank you Walmart for making such a big commitment to address the very real threat of hunger across our country. It is my hope that everyone reading this blog will be motivated to pitch in and help take Texas off the top ranking for food insecurity. If you want to get involved in the fight against hunger, visit the Texas Hunger Initiative. This wonderful group's mission is to make Texas food secure by 2015. This can be achieved through a collaborative effort among all Texans.

World Trade Month Celebrates Texas’ Global Contribution

As a leading producer of cattle, cotton, sheep, goats and mohair, Texas is a major player in the worldwide agricultural marketplace. Our $100 billion agriculture industry is a powerhouse of production that is relied upon everyday by our state, nation and the world.

In recognition of World Trade Month each May, I hope our nation's leadership continues to work with Texas producers to foster free trade agreements with countries such as Columbia, Panama and South Korea. These countries hold a great deal of promise for Texas producers, but political issues remain that hinder mutually beneficial trade partnerships. Recent trade breakthroughs in Russia and China are encouraging and should serve as models of shared success.

With 96 percent of the world's consumers living outside the United States and with agricultural exports accounting for nearly one-third of Texas' total agricultural cash receipts, we depend on foreign trading partners as much as they depend on us. Let's hope World Trade Month serves as a healthy reminder to Texas and the world that open trade is better than closed doors.

GO TEXAN WineCast Episode 4

The fourth GO TEXAN WineCast featuring the Way Out Wineries Trail is now available for viewing. Nestled between the High Plains and the Texas Hill Country, these eight small-town wineries host five seasonally themed “road trips” each year.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Jack Colley Defined Emergency Preparedness

Texas lost a good friend this past Sunday when Division of Emergency Management Director Jack Colley passed away. Jack, or as the thousands who listened in to daily calls during times of crisis knew him, Chief Colley, was a no-nonsense leader when it came to ensuring Texans were protected and needs were met in times of crisis. I never heard him say it, but you could tell he loved what he did, and he did it very well, bringing a level of certainty and calm into the realm of unknown and insecurity that is Emergency Management. He made you glad you were on the same team, even in the onslaught of looming destruction.

My first encounter with Chief Colley was during the Columbia Shuttle disaster recovery efforts when he helped guide East Texas through an unprecedented mobilization as the world's eyes watched. His leadership helped define our mission as Texas partnered with NASA and brought dignity to the recovery of our brave astronauts. Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Dolly and Ike will not soon be forgotten and neither will the Herculean efforts made to preposition assets in order to avoid catastrophe and guide our citizens to safety.

Agriculture got to know Chief Colley personally and in a unique way in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, when the storm resulted in the largest cattle drive ever. About 30,000 head of cattle were displaced and were rounded up, literally dead or alive. It was an essential task to reopen the highways and remove carcasses that could have contaminated water sources and become a public health crisis. We needed help and Chief Colley jumped into the saddle.

Chairing the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee was a daunting task, but Chief Colley made my role easier. We had one of our public hearings in the "bubble" - the emergency control center where the operations are carried out during a crisis. Chief Colley and his team made good hosts and welcomed all Texans to take pride in this state-of-the-art command center where our state's best gather to ensure 25 million Texans can continue with their lives.

Chief Colley usually ended his state emergency conference calls with a simple signature: "Colley out."

This Sunday he signed off for good. Chief, thanks for carrying such a load for the rest of us.

China Finally Accepts American Pork

It's about time. After closing its borders to U.S. pork more than a year ago allegedly due to the H1N1 flu, China has finally decided to respect the many scientific facts of the matter – all of which boil down to the simple fact that U.S. PORK IS SAFE.

The National Pork Producers Council reports China is now accepting pork imports from the U.S. Any meat processed after May 1 is eligible for importation. The U.S. and China reached an agreement in March to reopen markets, but it took this long for China to actually begin accepting product.

In April 2009, China cut off U.S. pork imports because of the H1N1 virus – this despite all of the science pointing to the fact that the H1N1 virus is not transmitted by food and that eating pork or pork products is therefore safe. Nevertheless, for more than a year, China chose to ignore this sound science, and instead based its trade decisions on political science.

With China being one of our largest trading partners, the reopening of this market is great news for U.S. and Texas pork producers. Let’s hope in the future China and other countries will allow facts to dictate their trading practices, rather than implementing unfounded sanctions that hurt our producers who remain committed to raising and growing the safest food on the planet.

Friday, May 14, 2010

A Valued Partnership With the Texas Bison Association

I had the honor of speaking with members of the Texas Bison Association at the group’s recent meeting in Fort Worth. I'm a firm believer that partnerships lead to progress, which is why I appreciate the association and its commitment to the Texas Department of Agriculture's GO TEXAN program.

The Texas Bison Association was formed in 1994 to advocate bison ranching in the Lone Star State. In an effort to maximize its outreach, the Texas Bison Association automatically enrolls its more than 60 members into the GO TEXAN marketing campaign, which promotes the products culture and communities of Texas. For $25 per year, each member of the Texas Bison Association can enjoy such promotional benefits as discounted advertising, exposure at year-round events and festivals, and listings in TDA promotional materials.

It makes me proud to know the association places such a high value on GO TEXAN branding and membership in its mission to advance Texas agriculture. In fact, this is a first where every single member of an association is pre-paid to become a GO TEXAN member. Thanks to the Texas Bison Association for leading the way. Maybe others will soon follow.

For more information about the benefits of GO TEXAN membership, visit our website at Meanwhile, visit the Texas Bison Association website at There you will discover a wealth of interesting bison facts while learning more about raising bison and enjoying lean bison meat.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

From Market to Menu, Texas Has Great Taste

Something delicious always happens when fresh Lone Star products land in the hands of Texas chefs.

In an effort to highlight this combination of tastes and talents, the Texas Department of Agriculture proudly launched the second season of the From Market to Menu program earlier this year. The program invited farmers markets across the state to apply for grants up to $1,000 to host GO TEXAN restaurant chef cooking demonstrations for market visitors to enjoy. The grant program is funded by a USDA block grant for specialty crop promotions.

From Lubbock to Fredericksburg, 12 farmers markets will host demonstrations May through August. The goal is to help certified Texas farmers markets promote local growers while also highlighting GO TEXAN restaurants committed to serving local products. The GO TEXAN program promotes the products, cultures and communities that call Texas home.

Visit for demonstration dates and locations, and remember to GO TEXAN at your area farmers markets and restaurants.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Want to Brag About Texas? Now is Your Chance ... Tell Us What 'Texas Is …' to You!

My travels took me to Lubbock Tuesday where I proudly announced the "Texas Is…" amateur video competition to boost tourism in Texas. The announcement coincides with Texas Travel and Tourism Week, May 8-16. The contest invites all Texans to submit a one-minute video clip telling travelers and tourists why Texas is so near and dear to our hearts.

From our scenic beauty and wide-open spaces to cultural traditions and deep-rooted Texas pride, the Lone Star State gives us plenty to brag about. Whether your next getaway takes you to a Texas winery, beach, nature trail or backyard barbecue, capture it on film, digital recorder or cell phone, and tell us what Texas means to you.

If your video submission is chosen as a winner, your clip may be used in nationwide marketing materials, social media sites and on our website to promote Texas tourism.

For more details on this competition, visit

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

GO TEXAN WineCast Episode 3

The third GO TEXAN WineCast is now available for viewing. The Grapevine Wine Trail
in North Texas features nine wineries. Some of the wineries host themed events such as the Murder Mystery Trail and the Valentine Wine Trail.

You can go to to view videos on other trails located across our state and to find out more about all Texas wines and wineries have to offer.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother’s Day

If your life is blessed with love, laughter and friendship, you can give thanks to your dear Mom. Besides giving these gifts to you, Moms make it possible for you to share them with others so you may live a life fulfilled. Happily married? Thank your Mom. Surrounded by friends? Thank your Mom. Determined to be an exemplary parent? Thanks again, Mom.

The qualities that make you appealing to others are the gifts given to you by Mom. Compassion and patience would be two lonely words if not for the Moms of the world. From skinned knees to broken hearts, Moms have a way of mending life’s wounds. They also are life’s greatest teachers, caretakers and influences. Even if your Mom is no longer with us, she lives among us every day through your smile and kind-hearted actions.

As we celebrate Mother’s Day today, let’s be grateful for the countless sacrifices made by all the good Moms in the world. Being a Mom is hard work and those who do the job well make the world a better place for us all. Thanks, Mom. And Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Houston School's Community Garden Off to a Great Start

The community garden at Betsy Ross Elementary in Houston is a great example of agriculture flourishing in urban settings.

The school recently held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the garden, made possible by the Texas Department of Agriculture's Urban Schools Agricultural Grant Program. Betsy Ross Elementary was awarded $2,500 for its project, "Learning and Growing the Food We Eat."

The project will act as an outdoor classroom for students, teachers and the entire community. The garden will help students understand the important role agriculture plays in their lives, while teaching them about healthy eating.

Congratulations to the teachers and students at Betsy Ross! I'd like to also extend a special thanks to Borden Milk Products and Kitchen Craft International for their generosity in making this grant program possible.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

GO TEXAN WineCast Episode 2

The second GO TEXAN WineCast is now available for viewing. Get familiar with the Texas Hill Country Wine Trail located in the heart of Central Texas. The trail is made up of 24 wineries and is the second most popular wine destination in the country, second only to Napa/Sonoma.

Watch the video here:

You can also visit the GO TEXAN Wine YouTube channel: to view videos on other trails located across our state and to find out more about all Texas wines and wineries have to offer.