Monday, December 27, 2010

Finding the right activity for your child is important

You hear it time and time again – Texas is battling a growing obesity crisis. This is a fact most of us understand.

Similarly, most of us know what foods are nutritious and which aren’t. But many parents may not know what types of physical activities their children should participate in and how often.

This article does a great job outlining doctor-approved guidelines for keeping your children active. I encourage parents to take a look and try to incorporate some of these fun activities into their kids’ daily routines.

Remember, it takes more than just eating healthy to live a healthy life. It takes the 3E’s – Education, Exercise and Eating Right – to enjoy a healthy lifestyle.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Give Beyond Christmas

Christmas always makes me count my blessings and I hope it does the same for you. This time of year, we should all be reminded that giving is more than just wrapping presents for friends and family. Giving is something we can offer our fellow Texans in the form of donations, time and goodwill.

In the spirit of giving this holiday season, I ask you to consider reaching out to others. Take your children to a food bank donation box and teach them the power of giving. Give your time to a shelter and help serve meals to the hungry. Look through your closets and consider donating your gently used clothes to someone who needs them far worse than you.

Small, simple acts of giving can make a profound difference in the lives of others. You, too, will receive the gift of knowing you helped your fellow citizens.

One of my holiday wishes this year is to have the spirit of Christmas last longer than just a few days. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we allowed the Christmas spirit to dwell within us for the other 364 days each year? It all starts with the desire to help those whose voices are often not heard. Now is your chance to bring joy to those in need.

Merry Christmas, Texas. Please share with me in the glory, the wonder and the miracle of this holiday season. Have a blessed Christmas.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Texas Adding Congressional Seats

It comes as no surprise the recently released 2010 U.S. Census reports Texas' total population growth outpaced that of each other state across our nation. With our housing market, job creation and overall economy weathering the recession better than most states, Texas is more attractive than ever as a place to live, work, do business, raise a family and retire. In fact, Texas' growth stands in contrast to much of the rest of the nation, which according to the Census experienced the slowest rates of population growth since the 1940s.

Texas' growing population will result in four additional congressional seats for a total delegation of 36 representatives. The Census reports population growth in Texas was 20.6 percent compared to the last Census in 2000.

More precise results will not be known until late February or early March of 2011. Those results will show block-by-block total population, allowing for the state legislature to redistrict Congressional, state legislature, courts and state board of education member districts.

Maintaining a strong delegation in Washington D.C. and Austin is important to agriculture, not only for farmers and ranchers, but also for all consumers. We need people in all elected offices to understand the importance of our domestic food supply, because food security and national security go hand-and-hand.

Therefore, I plan to wholeheartedly continue to be engaged in the redistricting process to ensure Texas remains a powerhouse of agricultural production and a powerful, job-creating state. Texas is open for business, and we are ready to get to work so our tomorrow is even better than today.

For more information, visit:

Add Exercise to Your Holiday Menu

I recently came across an article that listed the six worst holiday foods and beverages. Listed as the worst holiday dessert in terms of calories was pecan pie!

Now folks, if you ever had a piece of my wife’s pecan pie, you’d agree those are fightin’ words. While I was concerned with the suggestion that I should change my holiday season eating habits, I soon calmed down enough to realize the article has a point. First, holiday foods are fine in moderation. Also, don’t forget to be active during the holidays. While we plan on enjoying some delicious tastes and treats this holiday season (visit the 2010 GO TEXAN Holiday Gift Guide for some ideas), we should also plan on getting a little more exercise to offset the extra calories.

As for me, I am looking forward to cutting and splitting some firewood, and replacing some fence posts. Swinging the axe and digging some holes will certainly burn a few calories.

If your fence is in better shape than mine, you can burn holiday calories and stay fit year-round by signing up for a 30-day trial membership at your local gym. Get your whole family involved!

Enjoy your holiday treats and remember to practice the 3E’s of Healthy Living - Exercise, Education and Eating Right! A happy and healthy lifestyle should be more than wishful thinking.

Friday, December 17, 2010

New Tax Law Favors All Hardworking Americans

I am thankful that tax relief, put in place during President Bush’s first term, will continue for at least two more years, but I am still mystified on the thinking of some members of Congress.

Isn’t it ironic that Congress can have a debate on deficit reduction without any discussion of cutting federal government expenditures? The odd thing is some lawmakers considered letting the tax rates go up as the only answer to deficit reduction. You reduce deficits by living within your revenue means and cutting costs – not by mandating higher taxes. We can only hope the next Congress, which convenes in January, will understand this simple concept.

Of particular interest to our farmers and ranchers in this new law is the reworking of the estate tax provision. More commonly known as the death tax because of its impact on the estates of deceased farmers and ranchers, this new law will make it possible for countless agricultural operations to stay in production.

Thanks again to a cooperative show of political negotiation, the new law provides a two-year period in which farm and ranch lands can be taxed no more than 35 percent after a $5 million exemption. This is in sharp contrast to the proposed 55-percent/$1 million exemption that would leave many farmers and ranchers no other choice than to sell their land or cease operation.

I often remind people that our farmers and ranchers provide us with the safest, most abundant and most affordable food supply in the world. The new estate tax law makes it possible for them to continue to do so – and for that we should all be thankful.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Future of Farming is Going Wireless

You may not know it from television commercials, but wireless technology is no longer exclusive to urban commuters, texting teens and coffee shop patrons.

As this article from the Texas Farm Bureau reports, the reach of today's wireless technology also extends to rural farmlands where it is making impressive strides toward crop improvement.

Thanks to science and wireless technology, it is now possible for farmers to continuously and more precisely monitor such critical field conditions as soil moisture and temperature in order to produce a superior product for consumers. With this unprecedented ability to make exact adjustments during the growing season and harvest, farmers can now produce higher yields and greater quality while increasing profitability and replicating successful growing strategies. They also can troubleshoot like never before, making it possible to better leverage cause-and-effect relationships between the soil and their crops.

Like everything else in modern society, the future of farming is going wireless. As a consumer of things grown in Texas, stay tuned for quality produce, cotton and more as life moves forward by leaps and bounds.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Texas Christmas Trees and Poinsettias Make All Houses Feel Like Homes

I had the great pleasure this week of presenting Texas grown Christmas trees and poinsettias to the Ronald McDonald House in Austin. The beautiful trees, donated by our friends at Evergreen Farms in Elgin, and the flowers, which were given by the Texas State Florists’ Association, have helped bring the scent and color of Christmas to this “home away from home” for many Texas families.

While our Texas farmers work hard all year to raise these beautiful holiday trees and flowers, the folks at the Ronald McDonald House also do admirable work each and every day. The facility offers a comfortable setting for families and their children who are seriously ill or injured and receiving treatment at all Austin hospitals. Today’s gifts of Christmas trees and poinsettias brought these families and their children one step closer to home for the holidays.

I encourage all Texans to make their houses feel more like homes this holiday season with Texas Christmas trees and poinsettias. The beautiful trees and flowers that brought such joy to the Ronald McDonald House can do the same for your home as the spirit of the season draws near. For a list of Texas Christmas tree farms and nurseries, visit and click on GO TEXAN Programs.

May all your holidays be blessed.

GO TEXAN for Gifts

I’m not sure about you, but for me, Christmas shopping doesn’t come easy. Thankfully there’s an easy way to fill your loved ones’ stockings with Texas pride – by using the 2010 GO TEXAN Holiday Gift Guide – your one-stop shop for locally made products.

Texas is rich in diversity, and the products Texans make are no exception. From hunting and outdoor accessories to jewelry, furniture and food, the 2010 GO TEXAN Holiday Gift Guide features more than 250 Texas companies, some offering discounts of up to 20 percent.

When you buy Texas products, you are supporting local businesses and, in turn, investing your dollars in the Texas economy. A study by Texas Tech University found GO TEXAN members’ sales provided an economic impact of more than $1.46 billion in 2009, and each business employed 16 people on average.

This holiday, I encourage you to GO TEXAN for gifts. GO TEXAN members add Texas value to their products right here in the Lone Star State, so you know you are getting real Texas products and helping create real economic results for your state and your neighbors.

To view or download the 2010 GO TEXAN Gift Guide, click here or visit You can also scroll through it below.

Happy Holidays and remember to GO TEXAN this season!

GOTEXAN Holiday Gift Guide

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Trade Agreement With South Korea Would Bring Jobs to Texas

From beef cattle raisers and corn growers to dairy producers and soybean farmers, varied agriculture groups are praising the recent progress on the U.S.-South Korea Trade Agreement.

While Congress and the South Korean National Assembly still must ratify this agreement (and do so quickly in order to eliminate any unfair advantage sought by other countries), these negotiations will have huge implications for the Texas economy. We’re talking jobs here.

The door is now opening for Texas farmers and ranchers to have access to the nearly 50 million consumers in South Korea. While concessions have been made in areas, including rules on beef trade, according to USDA, this new deal will result in “a combination of tariff phase outs, new tariff-rate quotas and regulatory harmonization that will result in improved access to South Korea’s $1 trillion economy.”

This progress is certainly long-awaited news for all of American agriculture and will help ensure our producers can compete on a more level playing field when it comes to facing international competition. Not only do we hope Congress will approve this Free Trade Agreement, and do so quickly, we also think the time is right to act on the pending Columbia and Panama Free Trade Agreements as well.

Christmas is still weeks away, but Congress can now provide a gift to American agriculture that is long overdue.

Click here more info on this story.

TDA Proudly Partners with Walmart to Fight Hunger in Texas

Hunger in Texas remains a serious concern, which is why I was honored to partner with Walmart yesterday in announcing a Facebook campaign aimed at feeding America’s hungriest communities. In Texas, the cities of Austin/Round Rock, San Antonio, Houston and Dallas are eligible for Walmart’s generous $1 million hunger-relief grant. Five runner-up cities will receive $100,000 each.

According to a USDA report issued in November, 17 percent of Texas households are food insecure – more than the national average. By visiting Walmart’s Facebook page at and voting for one of the four eligible Texas cities, you can help feed our neighbors in need. Please take the time today to reach out and help your fellow Texans by casting your vote. Your click can be the difference between hunger and help.

To watch a video clip of the entire news conference at the Capital Area Foodbank in Austin, click here.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pearl Harbor: From Chaos Comes Courage

On this morning 69 years ago, the calm of Hawaii was shattered as the Japanese ambushed Pearl Harbor and brought the United States into World War II. In the words of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dec. 7, 1941, is “a date which will live in infamy.” Truer words could not be spoken.

Unfortunately war is a difficult reality that continues even today, but from chaos comes courage. This is what I ask you to ponder today. Take a moment to be grateful for our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines and their families who answer the call to keep us safe. Thank a veteran, be proud of our flag and never forget the sacrifices of our troops who preserve peace on our home soil and fight our enemies abroad.

Pearl Harbor is one of America’s deepest scars, but it should also be a reminder of the patriotic pride and American heroism that led us to victory in World War II. If not for our armed forces, we could not be free. Think about that today.

God bless our troops, past and present. And may God continue to bless America.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Help us Fight Hunger in Texas

Be sure to log on to the Texas Department of Agriculture's USTREAM channel tomorrow, Dec. 7 at 2:30 p.m. CST, to watch a live stream of our joint press conference with Walmart and the Capital Area Foodbank of Texas. We will be announcing a new campaign to fight hunger in Texas. You can also watch the live stream right here from my blog: