Monday, August 30, 2010

Use science? Go figure...

Guest Blogger: Drew DeBerry, Texas Deputy Agriculture Commissioner

Americans enjoy the safest food supply in the world. Unfortunately this reality has been undermined in recent weeks with opinions and comments about the recall of several hundred million eggs from Wright County Egg farm in Iowa.

Opinions are like noses - everybody has one - and I defend everyone's right to express theirs. While any illness resulting from certain eggs is a serious issue, it is important to remember some basic realities about our food production when voicing our opinions. The food our farmers and ranchers work so hard to provide is inspected at many levels before reaching the consumer. While the number of recalled eggs may sound alarming, we need to keep in perspective that these eggs only comprise 1 percent of the eggs produced in the nation.

Additionally, universities are doing exceptional work to enhance food safety. And it would be easy for me to reference some of the great work being done at my alma mater, Texas Tech University, or at Commissioner Staples' alma mater, Texas A&M University, to highlight scientifically-based facts and guidelines that are more than a headline reaction to this serious matter.

Instead, I thought I would go to a neutral corner and give both the Aggies and Red Raiders a break today. This article by Ohio State University food safety microbiologists brings to light some important facts we all should consider during this time when our health authorities track down the root cause of this outbreak and develop even better protocols to help ensure consumers are protected. When all else fails, maybe we should base our opinions on science...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Teaming Up for Healthy After-School Snacks and Meals Made with Texas Products

Guest Blogger, Elizabeth Hadley, Assistant Commissioner for Marketing

Yesterday, we at the Texas Department of Agriculture held a joint press conference with H-E-B at the Brodie Lane store in South Austin. The event highlighted how easy it is for parents to use locally-grown and raised products when preparing healthy after-school snacks and dinner. H-E-B Chef Scott Tillman hosted a cooking demonstration in which he made delicious peanut butter, honey and banana sandwiches; watermelon, strawberry and yogurt smoothies; and queso con carne and ground turkey. You can find them here.

It was a great event that truly showed how easy it is to find Texas produce and meats and use them to create healthy after-school meals. Luckily, with all the fresh foods grown in Texas, the options for nutrition snacks and dinner are endless. Visit the Texas Produce Availability Chart to find what Texas fruits and vegetable are available by month.

With 32 percent of Texas children ages 10-17 overweight or obese, now is an important time to teach our children how to eat right - one of the main components of Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples' 3E's of Healthy Living - Education, Exercise and Eating Right. Remember, living a healthy lifestyle begins at home.

Check out video from the event:

Monday, August 23, 2010

Texas School District Finds a New Way to Get Students Excited About School Meals

Guest Blogger: Lindsay Rodgers, Deputy Assistant Commissioner for Food and Nutrition Division

Finding ways to help kids eat right is an ongoing challenge, which is why one Texas child nutrition professional is going straight to the source.

In an effort to find healthy foods that will appeal to junior high school students, Jefferson Independent School District Child Nutrition Director Terry Moore assembles a weekly taste-testing panel made up of students to sample new products and recipes at Jefferson Junior High School. Moore's initiative has generated so much excitement and enthusiasm that students consider it an honor to be randomly selected for the taste-test panel. Following each session, Moore is joined by the students for an outdoor walk to discuss the importance of healthy eating.

Additionally, Moore says she often posts pictures and new food product signs around her office door to encourage students to visit and talk about school meals. The conversation almost always leads to questions about the next taste-test panel.

I commend Moore and Jefferson I.S.D. for finding an way to get students excited about eating school meals. Her efforts are a welcome complement to TDA's 3E's of Healthy Living -- Education, Exercise and Eating Right. With additional help from parents and communities, we can partner together to overcome the challenge of helping kids eat healthy and do our part to help address childhood obesity.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Mexico Imposes Unwarranted Tariffs on U.S./Texas Products

Guest blogger, Drew DeBerry, Deputy Commissioner of Agriculture

The Lone Star State exports billions of dollars each year worth of food, fiber and other goods across its borders to countries that depend on these Texas-made products.

That's why I'm disappointed to learn that the Mexican government has now renewed significant tariffs on roughly 100 U.S. agricultural and manufactured products. These unnecessary tariffs affect up to $2.6 billion worth of U.S. goods, including Texas agricultural products such as pork, cheese, sweet corn and grapefruit.

Mexico enacted these taxes to retaliate against the U.S. after federal officials halted the implementation of a cross-border trucking agreement that was signed in NAFTA in the mid-90's.

In March 2009, Commissioner Staples wrote a letter to President Obama requesting he quickly find a resolution to the NAFTA issue in order to prevent Mexico from imposing steep tariffs on Texas products. Commissioner Staples received a response from U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk stating a compromise policy was being proposed that would meet the requirements of the NAFTA agreement. It appears Mexico got tired of waiting.

But the real issue is about safe and affordable food. United States consumers enjoy the safest, most affordable food supply in the world. Why is it that the Mexican government is so insistent on depriving its people of that bounty?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Nutrition Education Outreach Grants Awarded

Guest Blogger: Angela Olige, Assistant Commissioner for Food and Nutrition Division

As childhood obesity becomes a growing public health concern, the need for better health and nutrition education has never been greater. I'm proud to say that need is being better served following TDA's announcement today that $414,000 has been awarded to 112 Texas school campuses and community organizations. The grants will fund better health and nutrition education and outreach as TDA continues to partner with schools and other organizations to promote the 3E's of Healthy Living - Education, Exercise and Eating Right.

To see the complete list of grant recipients, go here.

To read the press release announcing this exciting news, go here.

TDA will accept another round of applications for the Nutrition Outreach Program this fall. To learn more about the Nutrition Outreach Program, visit You can also contact the Grants office at (512) 475-1615 or email for more information.

Friday, August 13, 2010

New Tool to Connect to Agriculture Industry in West Texas

It takes teamwork to build success, which is why the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce recently launched its new website, Designed to connect chamber members and the public with information about the area's agriculture industry, is intended to be a spot where information can be shared in an effort to enhance economic development efforts that will attract new jobs and capital investment opportunities.

Whether you need information for a research paper or contacts for Lubbock-area agriculture professionals, is a valuable tool for making connections that can help a community succeed.

Staying competitive and informed are critical in today's economic climate, which is why the Lubbock chamber's new website is a step in the right direction and a model for other Texas communities. Visit and see how Lubbock is making connections today to ensure a more prosperous tomorrow.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Meal Provider Making a Difference in Panhandle

Guest Blogger - Becky Dempsey, Deputy Assistant Commissioner of Rural Economic Development

Tri-County Meals in Quitaque, Texas is a great example of how community support and hard working volunteers can turn a great idea into an invaluable service.

Starting with just 65 home-cooked meals delivered to homebound seniors in 2004, Tri-County Meals now delivers approximately 8,000 meals per year in three Texas Panhandle counties.

And now the group has reached another milestone – the construction of a new 5,000 square-foot foodservice facility that allows Tri-County Meals to serve hot meals onsite to seniors who do not qualify for home delivered meals. One of our regional staff members attended the ribbon cutting for this facility and tells us the dining room expansion will also make room for a Food Pantry program that delivers supplies and food to people in need after emergencies. More than 100 hardworking volunteers from Quitaque, Silverton, Turkey and Flomot make the mission of Tri-County Meals possible.

The Texas Department of Agriculture is proud to partner with such devoted organizations that are committed to helping Texans in need. Through our Texans Feeding Texans programs, TDA will continue to assist those who help hungry Texans. To volunteer or learn more about Tri-County Meals call (806) 269-1275.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Two Texas Originals Team Up to Serve Texans Quality Food

Guest Blogger: Drew DeBerry, Deputy Commissioner of Agriculture

Yesterday I joined baseball legend Nolan Ryan to announce that his beef products will now be served in Black-eyed Pea restaurants. It’s great to see these two GO TEXAN members partnering to bring consumers quality Texas food.

Through the GO TEXAN marketing program, we at the Texas Department of Agriculture are committed to helping consumers identify Texas products and the retailers and restaurants that offer them. We know Texas produces some of the best food products you can find, and with the help of GO TEXAN members like Nolan Ryan’s Beef and the Black-eyed Pea, consumers can now find them closer to home.

Visit to find a GO TEXAN restaurant near you. And don’t forget to dine at one of those establishments the week of Sept. 27-Oct. 1 during the GO TEXAN Restaurant Round-Up – the only statewide dine out event where Texans can invest in their local businesses and charities.