Sunday, December 25, 2011

Teach a child the true joy of Christmas

It’s hard to argue that children add joy to Christmas. From grandkids to the kids next door, children exude that certain excitement that can only come from youthful anticipation.

And while it’s impossible not to dote on children during Christmas, you might also consider it a great time to teach them goodwill toward others. Take your niece and nephew to a local food bank where they can help bundle care packages for families in need. Plan a play date with neighborhood kids and gather a collective donation of gently used toys and clothes. Visit an assisted-living home and teach your sons and daughters the priceless power of brightening somebody’s day.

Many of these gifts cost nothing more than time and the willingness to share your good fortune. Even if you have no kids of your own, there are opportunities to teach by example through churches, schools and youth groups.

Sometimes it’s more important to show a child it’s better to give than to receive. And what better time than Christmas to make an impression that can last a lifetime? After all, Christmas began with a gift to all mankind.

Merry Christmas, Texas. May you and yours continue to be blessed.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

State Water Plan Is Critical For Meeting Future Needs

The Texas Water Development Board recently approved the 2012 State Water Plan, which outlines the state’s water needs and potential ways to meet those needs over the next 50 years.

The plan represents a local approach to local water needs, and I commend the members of the 16 regional water planning groups who have dedicated their time and leadership to ensure Texans have access to water. The drought has highlighted the need for water planning and implementation of the plans.

Currently, the state’s reservoirs are barely over half of their capacity, and groundwater levels are decreasing. Everyone from individual users to agriculture producers to industrial consumers is feeling the pinch of tight water supplies. Without a workable water plan, the situation will get even worse as Texas’ population continues to grow.

Local leadership and local solutions will be key in implementing the water plan. You can learn more about the water plan by going here.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Extended Disaster Declaration

Texans who have suffered through the worst fire season on record finally receive some good news today. Some of the tax dollars we have sent to Washington are coming back to assist those devastated by wildfires.

Today the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) granted Gov. Perry’s repeated request to expand its major disaster declaration to include 119 Texas counties eligible for wildfire assistance, and extend the incident period from April 6, 2011, through August 29, 2011. The original declaration issued by FEMA only covered 45 counties.

The 2011 wildfire season has been one of the most catastrophic on record with about 30,000 fires scorching nearly 4 million acres. The cost of these fires continues to add up, with current estimates at $330 million.

Please continue to look for opportunities to help to help the families who are forced to rebuild what the fires destroyed. We also extend our sincerest thanks to the firefighters who stood strong and fought valiantly to save so many lives, homes and properties.

For more information on the disaster declaration, here is a link to Gov. Perry’s press release.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Hay Scam

A Mississippi man is busted for allegedly selling Texas ranchers hay he never had. Authorities are asking any Texas rancher who believe they may have been scammed to come forward. You can read the full story by clicking here.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Texas Veteran Gets His Final Wish at Pearl Harbor

Seventy years after the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor fully brought the United States into World War II, we continue to remember our fallen heroes, surviving veterans and the families who felt the firsthand impact of Dec. 7, 1941. The Japanese surprise strike claimed more than 2,400 American lives that morning and left more than 1,200 wounded. As President Franklin D. Roosevelt so famously said, it was indeed a “date which will live in infamy.”

The passage of time has left us with fewer surviving Pearl Harbor veterans. They are rightfully a proud group who will gather today to mourn their comrades, celebrate their camaraderie and remember the victory that was ultimately theirs. And ours.

As we salute our courageous soldiers today, I am pleased to share this story about a Pearl Harbor veteran from Plainview, Texas, who was granted his final wish this week when a portion of his ashes were laid to rest in the waters he helped defend. As always, God bless our troops, past and present.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

There's a lot to be thankful for

With the historic drought, punishing days of heat over 100 degrees, the wildfires that have been too many to count, and the tough economy that we face, some may question what we have to be thankful for this year.

I am thankful for the countless firefighters who stepped forward to battle the blazes.

I am thankful for the many who donated hay, supplies and made monetary donations to meet the needs of their fellow Texans.

I am thankful for neighbors helping neighbors in their time of need.

I am thankful for the employers who have been hiring Texans during this downturn.

I am thankful to God who gives us strength to endure.

I am thankful for this Psalm that serves as a reminder of how temporary these difficult times really happen to be:
"Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations." Psalm 100: 4-5 NIV

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Productive Day of Discussion with North American Leaders

On Tuesday, we kicked off the 20th Tri-National Agricultural Accord in Grapevine, Texas. I’m honored to be the host for this important conference and am proud that this is the first time the Accord has been held in our beautiful Lone Star State.

Yesterday, I co-chaired the Tri-National Agricultural Accord Rural Development working group, which was comprised of agriculture commissioners from the United States, Canada and Mexico. At the meeting, we discussed an innovative project between the business community in Brownsville, Texas, and Matamoros, a border city located in the state of Tamaulipas, Mexico. The project coordinates the economic development efforts of both cities to create a powerful strategy for the enhancement of trade, jobs and the security of both our countries. This was a productive discussion and one I look forward to continuing with our trading partners in Mexico.

Earlier in the day, I participated in a meeting with all three countries to ensure agricultural trade and business can continue to flow freely, and that Mexico, the United States and Canada are able to trade on a level playing field. These working groups are extremely important, and good things have come from them in the past, including:
1) The live importation of beef cattle into Mexico from the United States and Canada.
2) An agreement between the United States and Canada to allow for the production and marketing of organic products to be sold as organic in both countries.
3) A resolution of the cross-border trucking issue to allow for trade to move more quickly across the border with oversight of certified and inspected trucks.

Tonight, we are in for a real treat as former Mexican President Vicente Fox will offer the keynote address. His experience should provide valuable insight into how we can all work together toward the mutual benefit of the United States, Mexico and Canada.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tri-National Agricultural Accord Welcomes Texas Trading Partners

Today I was proud to extend a Texas-sized welcome to agriculture leaders from the United States, Mexico and Canada as we kicked off the 20th Tri-National Agricultural Accord in Grapevine, Texas. The honor was made even more special as this is the first time our trading partners and industry leaders convened in the Lone Star State.

Over the next four days, commissioners, secretaries, ministers and directors of agriculture departments from our three nations will explore trade opportunities, job creation and other collaborative strategies for working together to strengthen our nations’ agriculture industries and overall economies. Fittingly, this year’s theme is “Neighbors in Trade – Partners in Jobs,” so it seems appropriate that Former Mexican President Vicente Fox will offer the keynote address.

They say there is strength in numbers, but I also believe there is success in unity. The Tri-National Agricultural Accord is where strength and success will merge to the benefit of all three countries. It’s also where the Lone Star State will shine brightly on an international stage as we look for future opportunities for growing our powerful agriculture industry.

STAR Fund Deadline Extended to Help Ranchers Rebuild Fences

With approximately 6,200 miles of ranch fences lost to this year’s historic wildfires, the Texas Department of Agriculture is extending the deadline for Round 2 of STAR Fund relief assistance until Nov. 30.

Created solely with monetary donations from private individuals and companies, including a $35,000 donation from Farm Credit, the STAR Fund helps ranchers rebuild fences through an effort called “Operation New Fences.”

STAR Fund applications may be downloaded here. Applications will also be available at local AgriLife Extension offices in counties that are eligible for federal ECP funding. All applications must be mailed to TDA and postmarked by Nov. 30, 2011.

To make a donation to the STAR Fund, or for more information,visit Ranchers needing more information may also call (512) 475 -1615.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Coming Home

Sixty-one years after one of the bloodiest battles of the Korean War left 600 American men killed, captured or listed Missing in Action, one of those brave soldiers is coming home to finally rest in peace.

Benny Rogers was born in Palestine, Texas, and spent his early years growing up on a ranch before moving to Dallas as a teenager. At 17, Benny stretched the truth a bit and told an Army recruiter he was old enough to enlist. He loved serving his country, and three years later he re-enlisted as the Korean conflict was breaking out.

On Oct. 30, 1950, Cpl. Benny Rogers sent a letter to his mom telling her, “I am sitting in a freshly dug fox hole, things are getting better, but not over yet.” Three days later, the 20-year-old soldier was caught in the middle of the massacre at the Battle of Unsan. His mother received a telegram that he was listed as MIA.

For decades Benny’s mother prayed she would learn what happened to her son. Sadly, she died three years ago, but today her prayers are answered. Benny’s remains were found in North Korea and confirmed through enhanced DNA testing.

Yesterday, a day before Veterans Day, Cpl. Benny Rogers’ remains touched down at DFW airport. His family was on the tarmac to honor him and tomorrow he will receive full military honors when he is laid to rest next to his mother and father in Willow Springs Cemetery near Athens.

Benny’s niece, who was at the house when his mother received the telegram announcing he was missing, says the family is dealing with a mix of emotions. There is joy that Benny’s remains will be home where they belong, but sadness that his life was cut so short.

On this Veterans Day, let’s remember all those brave military men and women like Benny Rogers who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom. Let’s also never forget those still listed as MIAs and POWs, and pray that one day we will know what happened to each of them so we can tell their brave stories and know their families have found peace.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Family Land Heritage Ceremony Honors Hardworking Texans

Today at the Texas Capitol I had the great pleasure and privilege of recognizing Texans who have kept their family land in continuous agricultural production for 100 years or more. Among the 119 properties recognized as part of the Texas Department of Agriculture’s 36th Annual Family Land Heritage ceremony were six family operations marking 150 years and another celebrating an incredible 200 years. The amount of hard work and dedication that passes through generations in order to achieve such elite milestones cannot be overstated.

Without the commitment of these farming and ranching families who proudly carry forth their ancestors’ legacies, Texas agriculture would not be the world-renowned powerhouse of productivity that today generates $100 billion each year. Farming and ranching is tough, hard work. It requires tenacity in the face of adversity such as unpredictable weather, crop-killing pests and economic downturns. It requires grit, sweat and an exhausting, rise-and-shine, roll-up-your-sleeves work ethic.

Even if you haven’t lived the farming and ranching life, you can appreciate it from a different perspective – the next time you sit down for a meal or go to the grocery store, remember that hardworking Texas farmers and ranchers are the reason we all enjoy the safest, most abundant and most affordable food supply in the world. Now that’s worth celebrating!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

TDA's TJ Verver Joins International Trade Committee

As a leader in the production of numerous agricultural commodities and home to major seaports and export facilities, Texas plays a vital role in international trade.

For these reasons and others, I am excited to congratulate TJ Verver, TDA’s state coordinator for international marketing, on his selection to USDA’s Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee for Trade (ATAC) in Grains, Feed, Oilseeds and Planting Seeds.

In a very competitive selection process, TJ was chosen to offer his advice and expertise on this important committee. TJ is well-versed in issues related to the trade of U.S. commodities and is knowledgeable of concerns affecting the domestic and foreign production of agricultural products.

In his current role, TJ works closely with Texas agribusinesses to help them export their products. He also advises the Texas agriculture industry and TDA’s executive staff on trade issues and opportunities for agricultural exports.

TJ’s experience working with Texas farmers and ranchers, and his prior work experience in international trade with the city of San Antonio and Dell Inc., make him an outstanding addition to the ATAC as he represents a diverse group of producers and agriculture-related interests.

We all know expanding Texas trade is critical to creating jobs and growing our economy, so I’m excited TJ is going to play such an important role in growing our future success. His appointment runs until June 9, 2015. Congratulations, TJ!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Hay Relief

Texas farmers and ranchers are dealing with the worst one-year drought on record. This recent news story captures the desperation our ranchers are facing and the generosity of our fellow Americans.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Experts Fear Drought Likely to Persist

In a year that devastated the Texas agriculture community to the staggering tune of $5.2 billion in drought losses, KXAN-TV in Austin reports bleak prospects for future relief.

Friday, October 14, 2011

An Undeniable Need for More Border Security

Today, I testified before Congress on behalf of all Texans on the critical need for enhanced federal security along the U.S./Mexico border. On any given day, Texas farmers, ranchers and rural residents deal with intimidation, trespassing, theft, property damage, and sometimes even deadly assaults by criminals who have ties to the dangerous cartels.

Simply put, bullet holes don’t lie and dead bodies tell the powerful truth. Here are just some of the staggering statistics DPS has provided in regards to cartel-related crimes taking place on Texas soil:

Border-Related Shootings at U.S. Law Enforcement in Texas
64 – since 2009

Homicides in Texas Connected to Mexican Cartels or Texas-Based Gangs Connected To Cartels
27 – since 2009

120 – since 2004
(One victim was kidnapped from his home in Horizon City, Texas in 2009 and was taken to Mexico where they cut his hands off and mutilated his body in retaliation for the loss of a marijuana load.)

Human Trafficking and Human Smuggling
369 children trafficked to Texas from Jan. 2007 – Jan. 2011
480 victims reported in Texas – 220 were Americans – since 2007

Drug Seizures
6.9 million pounds of marijuana; 73,428 pounds of cocaine; 1,737 pounds of heroin; and 5,987 pounds of methamphetamine – since 2006

And here are only some of the acts of violence these transnational criminal organizations have committed just in the past few months:
· On Feb. 18 – Two energy company employees were assaulted and robbed in rural Webb County
· On March 11 – A ranch foreman was injured from shots fired by suspected drug cartel members in rural Webb County
· On June 9 – Texas DPS and Game Wardens were shot at by drug traffickers in rural Hidalgo County
· On June 19 – U.S. Border Patrol were shot at by drug traffickers in an area that has seen repeated shootings aimed at U.S. law enforcement in Hidalgo County
· On July 14 – Shots were fired at water district workers in rural Hidalgo County
· On Sept. 27 – Shots were fired, killing at least one individual, on Hidalgo County highway

These crimes, in addition to the countless testimonies we at the Texas Department of Agriculture continue to document on, show an undeniable need for increased federal protection.

I am not willing to cede one inch of Texas soil to these terrorists. Texans demand action! I appreciate Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Austin, TX) for his leadership in convening this hearing.

To see video of my testimony click here. To read my full written submitted testimony click here.

Indiana Farmers, Truckers Send Generous Donations to Texas

Texas ranchers received a generous helping hand today thanks to our friends in Indiana who recognized an opportunity to truck donated hay to the Lone Star State. On behalf of Texas ranchers who have been devastated by historic wildfires and drought, I’d like to thank our neighbors to the north for their selfless good deed. To read more, go here.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Job-Creating Free Trade Agreements Finally Approved

After years of delays in Washington, Congress has finally passed the job-creating free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.

Farmers and ranchers in Texas and across the country have waited far too long to reap the benefits of fewer trade barriers with our valuable international partners. According to USDA, passage of these agreements means more than $2.3 billion in additional agriculture exports, supporting nearly 20,000 jobs here at home.

The United States’ inaction on these trade deals opened the door for other countries to move forward with their own agreements and put American manufacturing and agriculture at a competitive disadvantage. As a frustrating example, the agreement with Colombia was reached in November 2006, but was hamstrung by political shenanigans for nearly five years. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce states that, “U.S. farmers have already lost more than $1 billion in sales to Colombia in the two years since that country implemented a trade deal with Argentina and Brazil.”

On the upside, these agreements don’t require any new government spending and will support up to 250,000 jobs.

The thousands of jobs these trade deals will create are greatly needed and I am excited at the opportunities our farmers, ranchers and manufacturers now have to freely export to Colombia, Panama and South Korea.

Healthy School Meals, Physical Activity Fuel the Future of Texas

In celebration of National School Lunch Week, Oct. 10-14, I had the pleasure of visiting students at Collins Elementary School in Houston where we discussed the importance of healthy eating habits and physical activity.

For many students throughout Texas, a nutritious school lunch is the only balanced meal they receive during the day. We also know that students who eat well-balanced meals perform better in the classroom and on the playground. A healthy school lunch is a smart choice that complements the 3E’s of Healthy Living - Education, Exercise and Eating Right!

A big thanks to Houston Texans tight end Owen Daniels and our friends at Dairy MAX, who joined me at Collins Elementary, for their efforts in getting Texas children to be more active through the Fuel Up to Play 60 program. Together, we can raise healthy and active students who one day will fuel the future of Texas.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

No Kid Hungry Campaign Kicks Off in Texas

Childhood hunger is entirely unacceptable, which is why I was proud to recently help kick off the Texas No Kid Hungry Campaign on the steps of the Capitol.

The goal of the campaign is to end childhood food insecurity by 2015. To learn more, read the Texas Tribune’s recent kick-off coverage here.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Inspector General Exposes EPA’s Disregard for Scientific Protocol

A report issued this week by the EPA’s inspector general uncovers that costly greenhouse gas regulations were hastily instituted against standard protocol. Why am I not surprised?

As you may recall, Gov. Perry and I challenged these greenhouse regulations in February 2010 on behalf of farmers, ranchers and other industry workers who stood to be priced out of business, rendered uncompetitive or left unemployed by bureaucratic corner cutting. Even in the best of economic times, I will not stand by and watch jobs be lost to reckless politics and a blatant disregard for standard practices.

This is yet further proof that President Obama’s ongoing environmental regulatory takeover is based on agenda-driven political science. Sound science, accountability and sound judgment should always be the standard by which our decisions are made; after all, American jobs are on the line.

To read the inspector general’s report, go here.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Border Security Gets Military Perspective

In an effort to protect U.S. citizens from spillover cartel violence while continuing to emphasize the critical need for enhanced Texas/Mexico border security, I was joined yesterday at the Capitol by retired General Barry McCaffrey and retired Major-General Robert Scales as we released “Texas Border Security: A Strategic Military Assessment.” The independent study, which offers a military perspective of our border vulnerability, was co-authored by the generals and unveiled as part of the Protect Your Texas Border Summit at the Capitol.

To read the generals’ assessment in its entirety, go here.

To read my opinion on this issue in the Austin American-Statesman, go here.

Friday, September 23, 2011

East Texas Timber Losses Add to Wildfire Toll

Texas is fortunate to have wide-open prairies and tall wooded forests, but unfortunately both have suffered tremendous losses in the wake of the drought and wildfires. According to the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, agricultural losses associated with the drought were estimated at more than $5 billion a few weeks ago.

More recently, the Texas Forest Service estimated $97 million worth of timber has been lost in the ongoing East Texas wildfires.

When you factor in additional economic losses resulting from irretrievable harvesting and homebuilding efforts,that number gets much bigger. In fact, according to the National Association of Homebuilders, the timber lost is comparable to enough lumber to frame nearly 147,000 homes measuring 2,400 square feet.

Texas has been deeply scarred by this devastating round of drought and wildfires, but we cannot surrender in defeat. Please continue to pray for rain and support our farmers, ranchers and other citizens who must not go it alone on the road to recovery. Rebuilding their livelihoods benefits us all.

Meanwhile, be sure to thank our courageous firefighters who are battling on the frontlines to mitigate the losses. Their efforts are truly heroic.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Let’s Get the Hogs Outta Texas!

Bigger is not always better in Texas, which is why I traveled to Beaumont today to issue the Hog Out Challenge to all Texans.

Here in the Lone Star State, our feral hog population numbers 2.6 million and causes more than $500 million in damages annually. Those are big numbers that add up to a big problem.

To curb this problem, I’ve declared that October is Hog Out Month in Texas. Every day is a good day to do your part in eliminating these pests from Texas’ urban and rural yards, highways, golf courses, farms and ranches. But the only way to win this war on feral hogs is for all Texans to join in a coordinated and concentrated effort. Hog Out Month provides this opportunity.

Additionally, Hog Out Month marks the kickoff of the Texas Department of Agriculture’s second annual Hog Out Challenge, which runs through Dec. 31 and awards grants to the five Texas counties with the most hogs removed and the highest participation in feral hog abatement programs.

More than a costly nuisance to agricultural operations and wildlife habitats, feral hogs increasingly are finding their way into urban areas and destroying yards, public parks and golf courses. They also pose a health threat to humans as they can carry disease and cause serious automobile accidents. Making matters worse, these hogs are capable of breeding twice a year.

Counties may obtain a notice of intent to participate in the Hog Out Challenge by clicking here, calling (512) 463-6695 or emailing More details about the challenge can be found by clicking here. Deadline to submit intent to participate is Sept. 30.

If you’re a landowner or homeowner who wants to learn more about eliminating feral hogs from Texas, contact your local Texas Agrilife Extension Service office. Let’s tackle Texas’ big feral hog problem. Let’s get the hogs outta Texas!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Economy and Jobs Need Regulatory Stability

The economy can withstand good news and bad news, but it cannot withstand uncertainty. In fact, uncertainty is the enemy of growth.

This is a basic principle, but seems to be overlooked by many in Washington today. Below are links that demonstrate how regulatory uncertainty is putting American jobs and our energy supply at risk.

At a time when our businesses and families are struggling with unprecedented unemployment, leaders should be focused on removing obstacles to job creation, not creating roadblocks and continued chaos.

Regulatory uncertainty hampers domestic nuclear production

Luminant sues EPA, says it will shut two coal units, cut 500 jobs

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Texas Agriculture Wins Support at NASDA

Guest Blogger: Drew DeBerry, Deputy Agriculture Commissioner

On behalf of Commissioner Todd Staples this week, I am proud to be in Salt Lake City representing Texas at the annual National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) meeting.

Each year, NASDA brings together the heads of our nation’s agricultural agencies to present priorities important to their respective communities. Those priorities are then presented as action items with the intent of working collectively to bolster the nation’s agriculture industry.

This year, Commissioner Staples brought action items on the the following four initiatives to the table on behalf of Texas agriculture: jobs and the economy; hay assistance; endangered species reform; and border security. These four resolutions were unanimously supported today by members of the Southern Association of State Departments of Agriculture (SASDA), and will now be considered by various committees within NASDA and voted on by all states on Monday.

Texas is fighting through the one of the worst droughts on record with agricultural losses already reaching $5.2 billion. The extreme heat has also fueled wildfires that have scorched more than 3 million acres, exacerbating the need to expedite hay delivery to those in need, which is why I’m pleased to see Commissioner Staples’ hay assistance resolution moving forward.

Also of great concern to Texans is the increasing violence against our citizens and agricultural producers at the hands of Mexican drug cartels. At NASDA, we introduced a resolution focused on securing our border, ending illegal immigration and urging a reform of labor programs to provide a documented and reliable workforce.

Another initiative that won support aims to strengthen our economy through passage of pending free trade agreements and stabilization of the uncertain regulatory environment that stands in the way of job creation.

Finally, Texas remains committed to striking a balance between conservation and the rights of private property owners. SASDA members enthusiastically joined Texas in proposing a comprehensive overhaul to the sprawling Endangered Species Act - to bring sound science guidelines to the table.

Besides being a forum for the advancement of agriculture, NASDA also reminds me how blessed we all are to have leaders throughout our country working collaboratively to strengthen agriculture for the benefit of all Americans.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Home of the Brave

The goal of bravery is to overcome. The goal of terrorism is to reign terror on those they wish to defeat - to instill long-term, sustained terror and to make the world a darker place. While America was attacked on 9/11 like never before, and the images of chaos and horror will haunt us forever, we will not allow our country to live in terror. We will celebrate those who overcame.

This weekend, the mother of a victim of Flight 93 said her son and others had 15 minutes to destroy a terrorist plan that was years in the making, and they did. The pride in her eyes, the strength in her voice reminds us all that on that day there were heroes. Heroes who stopped a plane from potentially destroying another symbol of America. Heroes who saved lives and gave their lives in the burning buildings. Heroes who lived to tell the story and show the terrorists America was not defeated.

Yes, evil lurks among us; we are not naive. But today is not a day to remember the sinister. Today is a day to remember the patriots, the heroes, those brave men and women who are gone and prove they are not forgotten, and to celebrate those who carry on. Ten years have passed. Memories are rekindled. Americans remain proud of our heroes, proud of our country, and proud to be called the land of the free and home of the brave.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Federal Disaster Declaration Approved for Bastrop County

A federal disaster declaration has been approved for Bastrop County. This opens up the opportunity for homeowners who have lost everything to apply for aid.

For more information please click here. We continue to keep families impacted by the recent fires in our prayers and will work to bring assistance to all of those Texans who are suffering from this worst-ever fire season.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Latest Wildfires Add to Devastating Tally

As smoke clouds another sunrise today, our hearts and prayers continue to be with our neighbors and firefighters across Texas who are struggling with the devastating burst of weekend wildfires that claimed hundreds of homes.

These families will need our material, financial and emotional support as they salvage what remains of their possessions. To help with donations, go here. For those who can help with livestock care and supplies, go here.

While it’s still too early to tally the latest losses, early estimates indicate more than 500 homes have been destroyed in Bastrop County. Another 30 or more have been lost in a separate blaze in Travis County’s Steiner Ranch neighborhood. West of Austin near Spicewood, 65 homes have been destroyed and in Leander approximately 13 homes have been lost.

Near my home in East Texas, a number of blazes broke out and, as we post this blog, the Texas Forest Service reports fires continue to burn or threaten homes in Montgomery, Waller, Walker, Grimes, Caldwell, Marion and Cass counties.

This latest round of devastation comes at a time when it seemed news of Texas wildfires could not get worse. Since the beginning of wildfire season, local and state firefighters have responded to more than 20,900 fires that have destroyed more than 3,000 structures and burned more than 3.6 million acres.

As Gov. Perry seeks federal assistance, I ask that you pray for our fellow Texans and continue to pray for rain. Meanwhile, keep out of harm’s way, obey the orders of law enforcement and fire officials, and please consider donating time and money to those who need it.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Hard Work Keeps Texas Strong

Texans have always had a strong work ethic, which is why we’ve weathered the current economic turmoil better than most states. As we celebrate Labor Day, I’d like to salute all the fine folks who wake up every day and contribute your labors to our society. Your initiative, pride and sense of self-worth are what drives our economy and makes Texas a leader. Your example also shows our children the importance of being a productive member of society – which in turn, strengthens the future of our great state.

Times are tough, no doubt about it. Good folks are in difficult situations through no fault of their own. Many are faced with downsizing, pay cuts and other challenges that call for renewed vigor and creative solutions.

Fortunately in Texas, there is a silver lining. A recent USA Today article reported Texas recently surpassed New York to become the nation’s second-largest economy during the past decade. That dramatic distinction is no doubt due to Texans’ inherent work ethic, as well as our business-friendly environment, fair regulations and low taxes.

These favorable attributes recently helped inspire a new Texas Department of Agriculture program called Jobs For Texas, or J4T. This innovative new program fits the needs of Texas small businesses by enabling investors and private entrepreneurs to make market-driven decisions to grow jobs.

The J4T program also recently won a $46.5 million national award under the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI). These funds will be used to enhance economic development and private investment in Texas by helping small businesses grow and create jobs through loan guarantees and a venture capital program.

If you have a job, respect it and keep working hard for our economic recovery. If you do not have a job, stay positive and don’t give up. That great job is right around the corner and it’s essential to continue the job search on behalf of yourself, your family and our economy. Happy Labor Day, everyone.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Enhanced Protections for Consumers at the Fuel Pump

As Texas drivers prepare for the holiday weekend, I was pleased to travel to Houston and Dallas today where I introduced a series of program enhancements to put consumers in the driver’s seat when it comes to getting what they pay for at the fuel pump.

A new consumer information sticker is now required to be placed on all Texas fuel pumps and links consumers to a new mobile website,, via their smartphones. From there, they can view pump inspection history and submit on-site complaints about the fuel station directly to the Texas Department of Agriculture if they suspect they are being shortchanged when topping off their tanks.

Additionally, retailers operating non-compliant pumps will now be fined up to $5,000 and have their fuel devices tagged out-of-order. Along with doubling, quadrupling or increasing penalties as much as tenfold, a new zero-tolerance policy also eliminates any grace period for those retailers failing to register their pumps.

Fortunately, 93 percent of all Texas retail fuel pumps registered with the Texas Department of Agriculture are found to be compliant with the laws. This new sticker, website and penalty structure are aimed at those bad apples that cheat Texas drivers out of their hard-earned money and cheat businesses in their own industry out of fair competition.

Travel safely this Labor Day weekend and go with peace of mind knowing you can now take action to ensure true value for your dollar at the pump.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Drought Losses Set Staggering Record of $5.2 Billion

As we feared, the worst single-year drought in Texas history has devastated our agriculture community to the staggering tune of $5.2 billion in losses, according to the Texas AgriLife Extension Service.

These losses exceed the previous record of $4.1 billion incurred during the drought of 2006 and can be attributed to the punishing combination of drought and record-setting temperatures that have caused hay shortages, dwindling herds and lost or severely damaged crops. The end result has been a dry spell that recently surpassed the one of 1918, making our current crisis the second-worst drought in the history of the Lone Star State.

These have been extraordinarily tough times for our farmers and ranchers, but you know what happens when the going gets tough — survivors always outlast adversity. While we are seeing the weathering on the faces and in the hearts of Texas farmers and ranchers, I’m confident the folks who provide us with safest, most affordable and most abundant food supply in the world will refuse to wilt beneath the brutal heat.

I continue to pray for rain in order to provide relief for our farmers and ranchers. May they continue to fight the good fight on behalf of all Texans who rely on their hard work every day.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Texan Makes ‘Super Committee’ Sense

Americans have no choice but to live within their means and our federal government should have to live by the same standard. Raising taxes is not the answer for the same reason American taxpayers and businesses cannot simply increase their income in today’s economy to make ends meet. The focus must be on the cost side of the ledger.

I am proud U.S. Congressman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) has been appointed by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to co-chair the deficit reduction “super committee.” No major economic recovery plan to benefit the future of our country would be complete without a fiscally responsible Texan perspective.

Hensarling has consistently demonstrated discipline and thoughtfulness during his service to our state and country. He knows what Texans know— you cannot spend more than you make.

While some have been critical of Hensarling’s appointment because of his committed conservative philosophy, that’s the exact reason I am wholly convinced he is right for the job. Politics will always be debatable at the end of the day, but it’s hard to argue with the fact the best results are achieved through a merging of philosophies.

As the markets have shown us, we must pick a course, exercise maturity and lead our country back to private-sector job growth and fiscal sanity. Hensarling understands this and can play a major role in our country’s debt solution.

Everyone will not agree with all the budget-cutting recommendations this bipartisan super committee will offer. However, we all should agree that not fixing the problem tastes worse than the bitter pills that can lead to a cure.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Jobs for Texans

The Lufkin Daily News has published a guest column I wrote about broadband technology and how it will increase jobs in Texas. You can read it here.

Friday, August 5, 2011

It’s Official: Texas is Suffering Worst One-Year Drought on Record

Farmers and ranchers had HARSH REALITIES confirmed today when State Climatologist Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon declared this the “most severe one-year drought on record” and the hottest July in the history of the Texas.

The extreme heat and unprecedented dry weather have crippled agricultural operations in Texas, upon which all Americans rely for food, fuel, clothing and other daily necessities. Our state’s farmers, ranchers and economy have already lost billions of dollars. Sadly, those losses are far from final as we continue to survey the damage and face a punishing forecast, promising little or no rain.

As our farmers and ranchers struggle to feed their livestock, I cannot stress enough the dire need for forage to sustain the No.1 cattle herd in the nation. Unfortunately, there are many miles between drought-parched Texas and available hay supplies. Thankfully, other states are joining with us in this effort. States like Kansas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma have already relaxed oversized load restrictions for hay to expedite the delivery of hay to the Lone Star State. While we are grateful those wheels are turning, the Texas Department of Agriculture continues to seek other statewide partnerships and opportunities to help rescue this year’s herd.

The brutal heat and lagging economy are a devastating one-two punch. We may be down, but we’re not out, because after all, we are Texans. Let’s continue to seek relief for our farmers and ranchers who are the backbone of our economy and daily sustenance. Their losses are everyone’s losses.

Let’s pray for rain and remain optimistic during these tough times. As I keep telling myself, another day without rain brings us closer to one with rain.

To read Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon’s report, click here.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Thanks to Louisiana For Helping Drought-Stricken Texas

Rather than being the life of the party last weekend, Tropical Storm Don was instead a no-show, leaving Texas to continue choking on record-breaking heat and historical drought conditions. Folks, I’ve never seen Texas so dry.

Thankfully, our neighbors in Louisiana are gracing us with some much-needed relief in the form of hay bales being trucked to Texas farmers and ranchers who are desperately trying to feed their dwindling herds. In a gesture of goodwill that is nothing short of a blessing, Louisiana Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain announced an executive order waiving size restrictions and permitting fees on oversized loads of hay en route to Texas. I’d like to extend my thanks and gratitude to Commissioner Strain and the Louisiana farmers, truckers and others who are rushing to our rescue.

It was reported just last week that this year’s drought stands to be the most costly in state history for Texas farmers and ranchers. The devastation is unprecedented, but the spirit of giving remains unbroken.

As you read this, I am diligently seeking partnerships and opportunities with other states to provide relief to the hardworking Texas farmers and ranchers who have suffered more than their share this year. I am grateful for the commitment of not only Commissioner Strain, but also of Wyoming Director of Agriculture Jason Fearneyhough who has said his state will pitch in to help Texans.

We truly appreciate the kindness of our colleagues and others who know what it is like to herd cattle and bail hay. With their help, we will continue to press on; and let’s keep praying for rain.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Rain With A Name!

Just about every meeting, conversation or gathering I attend this summer starts off with a broad discussion of the devastating drought that has crushed Texas agriculture this season.

Our state climatologist, John Nielsen-Gammon, says we are making history. Yes, we are in the third worst drought in Texas history and if July ends like it began, we could increase in the rankings by surpassing the 1918 No. 2 drought of record – a distinction no one wants. I surely don’t want to contemplate the No. 1 ranking reached in 1956.

Those who have watched weather patterns know that mid and late summer relief is often brought to us by moisture coming through the Gulf, so eyes have been turned in that direction.

In a meeting this week with landowners, a friend reminded us of what we needed, with a little twist, “What we need is a rain with a name!”

All eyes are anxiously waiting to see what Tropical Storm Don has to deliver over the weekend, which could land as early as Friday night. Texas agriculture will be waiting to see Don with more anticipation than the beginning of a Friday night football game. Run, Don, Run!

You might want to add Don to your family prayer list.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Go Out. Go Eat. GO TEXAN

The fourth annual GO TEXAN Restaurant Round-Up is underway this week as hundreds of statewide restaurants showcase the very best of Texas-made food and wines. These great meals also benefit a great cause as a portion of the week's proceeds will be donated to local food banks. Support Texas farmers, ranchers, fishermen, winemakers and restaurants this week while helping feed our neighbors in need. Go Out. Go Eat. GO TEXAN.

Click the videos below to view recent news coverage of this year's GO TEXAN Restaurant Round-Up, which continues through Sunday, July 31.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tapping into our Agricultural Energy Sources

Today, I chaired a meeting of the Texas Bioenergy Policy Council. This council of private, academic and state policymakers is charged with ensuring the state continues to lead in biofuel and biomass production through sustainable, equitable and defensible policies.

Select Milk Producers presented a new construction project currently underway to use dairy waste to power their farms and milk trucks. Some of the larger dairies will even have the ability to sell electricity or renewable natural gas to their neighbors. Another project presented to the council came from BP Biofuels and revolves around energycane being planted in the Beaumont area. The energycane, a crop that can grow to be over 16 feet tall, can be used for next generation biofuel production that does not directly compete with food and feed demands.

These projects, among many others, are helping diversify our state’s energy supply, bringing jobs, investment and capital to a state that continues to lead in both energy and agriculture. You can learn more about the work of the policy council and research committee on the Texas Department of Agriculture's Web site

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Aerial Surveillance Vehicle Lands in Texas

The recent announcement of a second Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) being designated for Texas comes as welcomed news to our citizens being terrorized by violent drug cartels along our southern border.

I want to thank Congressmen Cuellar and McCaul for requesting the additional airborne surveillance unit and also Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano for her assistance in securing its location in Corpus Christi.

As someone who has heard the firsthand accounts of threats and violence against Texas farmers and ranchers who live and operate agricultural operations on our border, I obviously have strong disagreements with Secretary Napolitano and President Obama on the topic of sufficient border security and safety for citizens in our southern counties. I do, however, appreciate this new UAV and hope it is fully employed along our Texas border, which today is protected by only 6.2 agents per border mile compared to 14 agents per border mile along the California, Arizona and New Mexico border with Mexico .

This second UAV is even more important considering its Texas counterpart primarily patrols the Gulf of Mexico and is not solely dedicated to the Texas-Mexico border.

Much more is needed to fully secure our border, but this second UAV is a welcome step in the right direction. The time is long overdue to secure our border against dangerous, heavily armed and bold drug cartel members who have recently proven they are not above taking shots at law enforcement and landowners here in Texas.

For continuous updates on border security be sure to visit our website at

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Hay Transport Waiver Benefits Texas Ranchers, Consumers

In a year marked by some of the worst drought conditions and wildfire devastation in Texas history, our farmers and ranchers need all the help they can get. Recently, I asked Gov. Rick Perry to direct the Texas Department of Transportation to waive certain restrictions for the transport of hay. Last week, Gov. Perry granted the waiver, which expires at midnight, August 4, with the possibility of a forthcoming extension if he renews the state’s disaster proclamation on the day of the deadline.

The waiver — which has been enacted numerous times in the past — makes it possible to facilitate the transport of large bails of hay to ranchers who are desperately trying to feed their herds. Recognizing that we are in a crisis situation, TxDoT has temporarily suspended permitting requirements, legal height restrictions for round hay bales, and associated permit fees for carriers of hay. Obviously, public safety remains a priority, which is why all other legal requirements, including licensing, registration, insurance and safety precautions are closely monitored for compliance. Alternate routing also is considered.

Emergency situations call for action and cooperation, and thankfully, Texas is known for both when the going gets tough. This most recent hay-transport waiver is more than a good idea: It’s critical to the preservation of our food supply.

For more information regarding waiver criteria and expedited routing, please contact the Texas Department of Transportation’s Motor Carrier Division at (512) 465-3592.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Tackling Childhood Hunger With Help from Deion Sanders

Last week I had the pleasure of teaming up with NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders at his youth camp in Duncanville. Deion’s camp, called TRUTH, partners with the Texas Department of Agriculture’s Summer Nutrition Programs to help feed hungry children during the summer months when they no longer have access to school meals.

Texas currently ranks second for childhood food insecurity, and this is simply unacceptable. With more than 4,000 sites open this summer to feed Texas children, there is no reason children should go without the essential nutrition they need.

While we must take into account these federally-funded resources are available to provide a temporary bridge to a better lifestyle, they must be utilized. Far too many Texas children and their parents are unaware of the feeding sites in their communities – and all they have to do is dial 211 to locate a site in their respective communities.

Participants at Deion’s camp not only have access to a healthy meal, but they are also getting academic and athletic training, which accomplishes the 3E’s of Healthy Living – Education, Exercise and Eating Right! These types of programs make sense for taxpayers, as they help to equip students with the skills they need to avoid many problems that stifle economic growth and individual independence later in life.

I appreciate the commitment of Deion Sanders and all of our sponsors across the state who are working to meet the goal of feeding more children this summer. It is critical we spread the word and help feed the children that depend on these meals for their daily nutrition.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Hearts go out to Hamm family, other firefighter families

The Texas Forest Service reported 24-year-old Caleb Hamm lost his life yesterday battling blazes in Palo Pinto County near Mineral Wells, Texas. This horrific wildfire season is taking its toll as two others in our critical fire response team have died in the line of duty: Eastland Volunteer Firefighter Greg Simmons and Cactus Volunteer Firefighter Elias Jaquez.

These lost lives are a stark reminder of the constant threat to lives, in addition to the livelihoods that are destroyed.

While this is a time of extreme sadness for these families who have lost so much, they must also take pride in the heroic lives their loved ones lived protecting lives and property of so many Texans.

The Alamo was defended by brave souls from many other states. The loss of Caleb Hamm from Idaho reminds us of the shared service and combined heroic efforts that continue today to make America the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

U.S./Mexico Trade Agreement Ends Harmful Tariffs

Trade equals jobs and a new agreement to reduce trade tariffs on U.S. and Texas products entering Mexico will help level the playing field and remove the unfair burden placed on the backs of our hardworking farmers and ranchers.

Nearly two decades after the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the political shenanigans that followed, an agreement has finally been reached on cross-border trucking between the United States and Mexico. This agreement, finalized today, will reduce harmful tariffs Mexico imposed on 99 U.S. products exported to our southern neighbor.

Safety is the No. 1 priority for the cross-border trucking program. Every Mexican truck that crosses the border will receive an inspection and have to follow the same safety guidelines as U.S. trucks.

Mexico is Texas’ No.1 international trading partner with $73 billion in total Texas goods and services exported south of the border in 2010. Through April 2011, year-to-date exports from Texas to Mexico have totaled $27 billion. A secure cross-border passageway between the United States and Mexico supports American jobs and expands market access for the export-dependent agriculture industry.

Congratulations to native Texan Ron Kirk, United States Trade Representative, for his work in hammering out the agreement.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

United in Freedom on Fourth of July

Severe drought conditions in the Lone Star State will put a damper on Fourth of July fireworks this year, but that should hardly dampen the spirit of the day.

As Texans and Americans, we are blessed to have cause for celebration on Independence Day and every other day of the year. When you consider the extraordinary sacrifices our founding fathers and patriotic troops have made for freedom and liberty, drought, wildfires, the economy and other challenges tend to take on a more focused perspective.

We live in the greatest nation on earth and have enjoyed 235 years of freedom and independence that allow us to speak our minds, practice our faith, draw strength from our diversity and vote our conscious. Our families and country are protected by the world’s mightiest military and we are free from a tyrannical government.

As a nation, we continue to be as strong in our unity as we are resilient to adversity. These are tough times and many of our neighbors have suffered tremendous losses, but here in America freedom still rings loud and clear, and each of us has a duty to ensure it can never be taken away.

Happy Fourth of July, America. I hope you enjoy some of the powerful images of freedom that follow this posting. May God bless you and our military men and women who protect us.

Stand Strong for Texas

I recently partnered with the Texas Forest Service to produce a Public Service Announcement on the importance of preventing wildfires. We all must be vigilant in protecting Texas from disastrous wildfires.

Check out the PSA on YouTube.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Thankful for Major Disaster Declaration

Yesterday the President approved a portion of Texas’ request for a major disaster declaration. The President's declaration will ensure 45 counties in Texas will now receive the major disaster assistance we have been calling for since these record wildfires blazed through the Lone Star State, and we are thankful.

This season’s catastrophic wildfires have become among the worst on record, with more than 3.2 million acres scorched in Texas. This declaration was extended to only a portion of Texas’ request. We stand by Governor Perry's efforts to ensure impacted counties receive the major disaster declaration they desperately need and deserve.

Our prayers are with the Texas families who are beginning the long road to recovery and the firefighters who have been battling the infernos.

Friday, June 24, 2011

New Monahans Greenhouse Fosters Job Growth, Food Security

Village Farms in the city of Monahans is preparing to hit a grand slam in the ballpark of Texas job growth and food security.

This agricultural company recently announced plans to build a new greenhouse that is expected to begin production early next year. This news comes as a cool refresher amidst the hot climate of the current economic depression, as the $42 million facility is set to create about 100 new jobs.

Featuring a massive 120-acre production space, the Monahans greenhouse will be one of the most advanced facilities of its kind. With that kind of powerhouse production, it’s only a matter of time until the Monahans greenhouse catches up with its sister site in Marfa, which broke the world record for tomato production in only its first year of operation.

More jobs and more fresh, homegrown Texas produce sounds like an investment worth growing. Yet another piece of evidence that it pays for Texas to continue to have low taxes, fair courts and reasonable regulations.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Cotton Losses Due to Drought Will Literally Hit Your Pockets

We are receiving some much needed rain this week, but the dramatic impact of this drought is beginning to materialize and the outlook is grim.

According to Plains Cotton Growers, Inc. this may be the first year there is a 100-percent abandonment of the 2 million-acre dryland cotton crop in their service area around Lubbock. That area, by the way, accounts for about 80 percent of the state’s cotton production.

When you consider Texas produced 43 percent of the nation’s cotton crop last year, or 7.9 million bales of the U.S. total of 18.1 million bales, the potential loss spells big trouble.

A huge reduction in cotton is not only bad news for the $1.4 billion cotton industry and its 38,100 employees, but also for parents buying blue jeans and socks for their kids. Less cotton will likely mean higher prices for the cotton-based products you and I buy off the shelves or the rack.

Agriculture is a tremendously fulfilling enterprise. If you have ever grown even a single plant in your home, you understand the amazing and delicate process of nurturing a single seed. Magnify that scenario by the massive amounts of food we eat, clothes we wear and all the other agricultural products that enrich our daily lives, and you get an idea of the devastating impact of entire crop loss.

Let’s keep our cotton farmers, and the communities that depend on them, in our prayers during these severe drought conditions and extremely challenging times.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Another Border Shootout Falls on Deaf Ears in Washington

In what should amount to another wake-up call to Washington this month, a second border shootout between Mexican drug cartels and U.S. law enforcement took place Sunday near the town of Mission. Although nobody was hurt (this time) as armed smugglers tried to push 500 pounds of marijuana into the United States, the news of gunfire aimed at U.S. citizens is absolutely unacceptable.

Making this latest episode even more unsettling is the fact that it came less than two weeks after law enforcement here in Texas returned 300 rounds of fire when smugglers attempted to draw first blood near the town of Abram. If these thugs sound brazen in their willingness to kill, it is because they are! They have no fear of federal firepower.

Unfortunately, the current administration continues to trumpet its claims that our border is safer than ever. Tell that to the officers who managed to dodge cartel bullets! The Texas farmers and ranchers featured on live with the constant danger and know the dead bodies they discover on their private property are NOT figments of their imaginations. Neither are the bullet holes in their pickups.

I’ll be the first to say we deeply appreciate the efforts and bravery of our local, state and federal law enforcement men and women, but it’s time for Washington to admit they’re outnumbered and outgunned. We must have more manpower and meet force with greater force. It’s also time for Washington to uphold its Constitutional duty to protect American citizens from foreign invaders who increasingly stop at nothing to traffic their drugs and humans across our borders and through our towns and ranches.

Wake up, Washington! If you don’t hear our continued cries for additional federal border protection, you’ll soon be hearing many more reports of bullets and bloodshed on American soil. Mr. President, we need more resources. Please send more help to secure our border; it’s well past time to answer your call to duty.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Thanks to Good Fathers

This Sunday, we celebrate the unique relationship between fathers and their children.

When we think of all the responsibilities of a good father, words like “teach,” “discipline” and “provide” come to mind. We expect our dads to “do.”

Along with words, many images are stirred. Maybe you remember the baseball practices your dad never missed, even after a long day of work. Perhaps you recall the times he helped pack and unpack heavy boxes as you moved from place to place through college. If you’re lucky, you may remember the lessons he taught by example without ever saying a word.

If you’ve been blessed with children of your own, maybe Father’s Day causes you to re-evaluate your role as a parent. Are you doing everything you can to ensure a healthy, productive future for your son or daughter?

It’s clear the presence or absence of a father in a child’s life has an enormous effect on their development. Fathers are given a unique opportunity to forever impact and influence the lives of their children.

As we celebrate Father’s Day this Sunday, I applaud the fathers who have sacrificed their time, money and efforts for their children. No better investment can be made than one that touches the heart and mind of a child.

Happy Father’s Day.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Another Patriotic Call for Border Security

While our federal government chooses to downplay the escalating threat of Mexican drug cartels on U.S. citizens, those of us who live on the front lines of this war to protect America’s sovereignty will continue to raise our voices.

Last week, Congressman Francisco “Quico” Canseco introduced the Southwest Cross-border Violence Recognition Act at a press conference in Austin. Unlike many in Washington, Congressman Canseco understands his duty to his constituents. His actions also demonstrate a patriotic adherence to the U.S. Constitution, which clearly places responsibility with the federal government for protecting American citizens from invasion by foreign sources wishing to do us harm. Make no mistake, these violent drug cartel members are terrorizing Americans. Let’s be clear – I mean terrorizing in every sense of the word.

Less than 24 hours after the press conference, a shootout between cartel members and U.S. law enforcement occurred on the border. While the good guys were thankfully unharmed, this latest volley of bullets served as another reminder of the encroaching criminal violence.

I applaud and support Congressman Canseco’s efforts to target cartel violence and fortify our border. Contrary to what Washington tells us, our border is more vulnerable than ever. Let’s hope it doesn’t take more blood and bullets for Washington to realize the enemy is here. We need more federal enforcement and we need it now.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Border Shootout

This morning, Texas law enforcement officers were involved in a shootout with Mexican drug cartel members. You can review the Texas Department of Public Safety press release below. Unfortunately, this criminal violence on American soil is becoming all too frequent for our border residents and our brave law enforcement personnel. The federal government cannot continue to turn a blind eye on the attack on our sovereignty by these terrorists. Border security needs to be a top priority. We must push the current administration in Washington to acknowledge the problem and to provide the resources needed to protect our U.S. citizens. We will keep you updated on this latest incident on the Texas border and will continue to shine the light on our INsecure border. For continuous updates on border security, make sure to review our website at

Texas Department of Public Safety

June 9, 2011

Shootout between U. S. law enforcement and drug cartel on Texas border

Early this morning, U. S. law enforcement officers participating in a multi-agency Texas Ranger Recon operation were fired upon from Mexico while attempting to interdict a large drug load. At least three suspected drug runners were wounded in the exchange of gunfire.

A suspicious vehicle on the U. S. side of the Rio Grande River was observed along with two cartel drug recovery boats. Three law enforcement patrol boats arrived on the scene and received heavy gun fire from the Mexico side while attempting to interdict the drug-laden boats.

Mexican authorities were notified of the abandoned cartel drug-laden boats and are on the scene.

### (PIO 2011-57)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Summer Nutrition Programs Beginning Across State

I recently visited with school kids in Corpus Christi and Laredo where I kicked off my annual Mayors Challenge in an effort to feed hungry children this summer. While a lot of these kids are obviously excited about the summer break, there will be many at risk of being hungry because they will not have access to the school meals they rely on each day.

The Mayors Challenge is intended to remind parents about Summer Nutrition Programs and local feeding sites available to eligible children while school is closed. With the help of mayors across the state, I hope to raise awareness about these underutilized resources available to keep kids nourished.

How great is the need? Lunches served to low-income children drop from 2.3 million per day during the school year to just 418,000 per day in the summer. That’s an alarming disparity and a gap we should all try to close.

Summer is temporary and so too should be the short-term solutions for getting through difficult financial times. Education and gainful employment are the keys to any family’s independence. Let’s work toward creating those opportunities while keeping kids fed in the meantime. When children have access to nutritious food, their need for healthcare should go down. This is a boost not only for the children, but also for the taxpayer who often times pays the cost of healthcare.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Thanks to Our Soldiers on Memorial Day

As Americans blessed with freedom and liberty, we owe an eternal debt of gratitude to our men and women in the military. Their daily sacrifices make it possible for us to practice our faith, vote for our leaders of choice and raise our children in peace.

On Memorial Day, we honor those soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice. From our nation’s earliest battles for freedom and independence to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. soldiers who died fighting for democracy deserve our eternal gratitude. They are gone, but their memories, their families and the freedom they defended must never be forgotten.

While many of us look forward to gathering with family and friends over the Memorial Day weekend, I encourage you to enjoy your leisure with heartfelt thanks. Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend and be thankful for your freedom. May God bless our soldiers. May God bless Texas and may God bless the United States of America.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Let’s Help Our Firefighters

When wildfires cause us to evacuate and move to safety, our volunteer firefighters answer the call to protect our lives and property. Now is the time for us to return the favor and assist our dedicated first responders. Today I joined members of the legislature to announce the Texas Firefighters Relief Fund.

This new fund will help properly equip our brave volunteer firefighters as they battle some of the worst wildfires to ever ravage Texas. We need to give back to those who put their lives on the line to shield us from harm. Helping our volunteer firefighters is critically important right now because the federal government has refused to grant our state a Major Disaster Declaration. You can see a portion of the press conference below and click here to make a donation.

Monday, May 23, 2011

SB 18 is Now the Law of the Land

Today I had the great honor of joining Governor Rick Perry and participating in the signing ceremony to enact into law an eminent domain bill that protects private property owners from having their land unjustly taken for public use.

In Texas, our land is our legacy. Today’s signing of SB 18 ensures intense scrutiny and fair compensation to land owners when eminent domain is used.

This law was a long time coming and I’d like to thank Sen. Craig Estes, Sen. Robert Duncan, Rep. Charlie Geren, Rep. Rene Oliveira and Rep. Tim Kleinschmidt for their diligent support in upholding what the Texas Constitution guarantees -- that private property owners will not be subjected to intrusive condemnation proceedings.

Don’t mess with Texas, and don’t mess with Texas land. It’s more than a slogan; it’s the law.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Drought on the Heels of Wildfires Adds to Texas Losses

While Texas wildfires have made for gloomy headlines this year, they tell only part of the grim story facing our state. With 2.6 million acres impacted by fires since November, we now also are looking at the dire possibility of record-breaking, single-year losses due to drought. According to a Texas AgriLife Extension Service report highlighted in this AP story, agricultural losses in Texas this year already total $1.5 billion. As the story mentions, if dry conditions persist into summer, we could surpass the 2006 record of $4.1 billion in losses. To read the full story, click here.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Removing Trade Barriers Can Help Meet Worldwide Demand

Watching worldwide demand for beef is always important for the No. 1 cattle-producing state in the nation, which is why this article from Drovers CattleNetwork caught my eye.

When consumers around the globe have the opportunity to experience Texas and U.S. beef, they usually want more. I just hope our trade negotiators can eliminate the potential trade barrier to the European Union discussed in the article. If they succeed, our producers can benefit fully from demand that is likely to grow.

Texas is blessed to produce enough beef to help feed our state and nation. Let’s hope we also gain greater opportunity to meet worldwide demand. Doing so means more jobs and more opportunity, right here in the Lone Star State.

Monday, May 16, 2011

New Dairy Center Continues A&M Tradition of Education, Research

Recently, I was honored to attend the grand opening of Tarleton State University’s new $11.2 million Southwest Regional Dairy Center in Stephenville. As a member of the Texas A&M University System, Tarleton State University’s new dairy center will serve as a hub of learning and research for students and industry leaders that continue to grow the great tradition of agricultural education known throughout the system. This new state-of-the-art education and research facility will play a key role in developing solutions for the dairy industry’s sustainability in Texas and the nation.

I’m extremely proud of the new dairy center, but the people who should be the proudest are the American consumers who continue to enjoy the safest, most abundant and most affordable food supply in the world thanks to those involved in agriculture.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Border INsecurity is No Laughing Matter!

It’s appalling to hear the president crack jokes about our southern border when the violent drug cartel members are terrorizing innocent American citizens.

As pointed out in this AP story, at one point during his speech, the president scoffed at those who do not think the government is doing enough to protect our borders, smugly pointing out the border fence and saying, “they’ll never be satisfied” and “maybe they’ll need a moat.” I know for a fact he would have been singing a different tune had he been riding next to the south Texas rancher whose truck was riddled by bullets, or standing next to the crew who got chased off their land while harvesting sugar cane, or working alongside the oil field workers who were beaten (and taken to an emergency room by ambulance) by a group of men who fled south across the border.

Mr. President, why are you laughing at the harm being done to American citizens? Why is a federal border patrol agent who was killed in a firefight with drug cartel members in Arizona in December of last year a reason to make light of the desperate situation our rural landowners are facing? Why do you and your administration ignore, make light and deny the testimonials of the men and women who have come forward with the horror stories? Need proof these tragedies are real? Go to

While the president may have made these insensitive jokes today in the “safest” city in America, let’s keep in mind this is the same city that benefits from a large border patrol and federal presence, yet whose hospital recently asked for its own police force due to the unprecedented crime spilling over from Mexico.

Jokes are not going to help our citizens, we need action. The President must put more boots on the border by deploying additional troops, bring in further surveillance technology and supply our local law enforcement with extra resources.

Mr. President, we need your help; not your failed attempts at humor.

Austin Hosts Texas Food Safety Conference

Food safety is a critical issue for all of us, which is why I’m glad to be a part of the Texas Food Safety Conference in Austin, May 10-11.

Hosted by the state’s leading produce associations, farmers, regulators and experts, the conference will focus on enhancing produce safety and finding ways to identify and prevent foodborne illnesses before they become public health concerns.

Farmers, ranchers and others in the agriculture industry are often our first line of defense in the prevention of illnesses and food recalls. Events like the Texas Food Safety Conference can add another layer of consumer protection while ensuring we all continue to enjoy the safest, most abundant and most affordable food supply in the world.

For more information on the Texas Food Safety Conference, click here.

Monday, May 9, 2011

As Wildfire Losses Top $20M, FEMA Denies Assistance to Help Texans Recover

As Texas wildfires continue destroying the livelihoods of farmers, ranchers and neighboring citizens – and jeopardizing the food supply of every Texan and American alike – the costs of recovery are mounting. But instead of helping to the extent we need, Washington is pouring proverbial fuel on the flames.

According to the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Texas wildfires in April caused approximately $20.4 million in damages and counting. While most people are quick to imagine homes, barns and farmland among the losses, other equally devastating damages come in the form of destroyed fencing, dead livestock and the complete loss of current and future grazing acreage.

As the AgriLife Extension Service points out, fencing is one of the most critical and costly agricultural expenses, averaging about $10,000 per mile to build, with the cost increasing depending on the terrain. With approximately 1,200 miles of fencing destroyed, the math gets downright daunting.

To date, the AgriLife Extension Service says more than 2 million acres have burned in Texas and more than 500 cattle, horses and sheep have been killed. Add the losses of structures, farm equipment and other supplies, and then multiply it by the damage and deaths that are not yet tallied, and you get a pretty grim picture of the road ahead.

Yet, FEMA recently formally refused to declare this devastation a major disaster, which now means Texans who have suffered these losses will not receive some of the federal assistance they severely need right now although they have willingly paid for it with their tax dollars when disaster struck other regions of the country. It’s important to remember if these families are not able to recover, and indeed go out of business, the daily food and fiber needs of every Texan and American stand to be jeopardized.

Our citizens send their hard-earned money to the federal government to fund agencies like FEMA that are responsible for helping Americans recover from disasters. Now, when we need it most, FEMA denies its full assistance. It is unconscionable our federal government would reject a plea from hard-working citizens in their most desperate time of need.

Let’s help our farmers and ranchers rebuild so they can continue to provide for our families and theirs. Please donate to the State of Texas Agriculture Relief Fund, or STAR Fund, by visiting

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Thanks to Moms on Mothers Day

I am glad God allowed women to be mothers and not men, otherwise, the human race might have been over with before it got started. I just cannot imagine how a mother can do all she does.

Whether you are a full-time work at home mother or full-time work at home and work at a job mother, thank you for all you do. A day to honor you for your efforts just isn't enough. A mother doesn't just bring a person into this world, a good mother walks you through this life. A mother seems to give up so much for her children yet you never know it because mothers have the unique gift to keep you focused on what all children need to be focused on. Mothers may vary in approach and style on how they rear their children, but nothing comes close to the special bond between a mother and her child.

To all the mothers, may God bless you. We all thank you for being Mom.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Don’t Mess with Texas and Don’t Mess with Texas Land

Private property owners are celebrating in Texas today after the Legislature passed Senate Bill 18, the eminent domain reform bill. The bill is now on its way to Governor Perry’s desk for signature.

SB 18 is authored in the Senate by Sen. Craig Estes (Wichita Falls) and Sen. Robert Duncan (Lubbock) and sponsored in the House by Rep. Charlie Geren (River Oaks), Rep. Rene Oliveira (Brownsville) and Rep. Tim Kleinschmidt (Lexington). It enforces what the Texas Constitution guarantees – that private property owners will be protected from intrusive condemnation proceedings. Among other things, the bill says property may only be taken for a public use and that negotiations must be made in good faith, meaning a condemning entity cannot try to shortchange property owners in offering just compensation. SB 18 also includes a buy-back provision for property owners – if land is taken for a public use but progress is not made on the project within 10 years, the property owner can repurchase the property. It also requires all entities with the power of eminent domain to register with the state or risk having that power suspended.

I have long been a proponent of legislation that guarantees Texas private property owners are treated fairly and that entities with eminent domain power act responsibly. After years of setbacks, Texans will finally have their private property owners’ rights affirmed once SB 18 is signed into law.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: Don’t mess with Texas, and don’t mess with Texas land!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Demise of bin Laden Strengthens a Promising Partnership

The recent news of Osama bin Laden’s demise was especially poignant today as I met with a delegation of Afghan officials at Camp Mabry. The timing of the two events was purely coincidental, but its relevance underscores the importance of this meeting designed to bring renewed promise and hope for Afghanistan.

Since 2007, Texas Army National Guard soldiers have worked with Afghan farmers through a partnership called Agribusiness Development Teams. The teams are dedicated to sharing agricultural expertise with their Afghan counterparts in an effort to help the war-ravaged nation rebuild and sustain itself through proven farming and ranching methods. The teams were developed through the cooperation of the U.S. Central Command, the Afghan government and the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture at Texas A&M.

For years, the people of Afghanistan have struggled to feed themselves through an efficient agriculture industry due to the violent interruptions of war and terrorism. With bin Laden now permanently removed, the people of Afghanistan have more potential than ever for rebuilding their nation and especially the agriculture industry that is the cornerstone for any prosperous society.

First and foremost I’d like to thank the brave men and women in our armed forces who helped bring bin Laden to justice. Additionally, I’m grateful to the Texas Army National Guard and our friends from Afghanistan for working toward this noble goal of loosening the grip of terror and improving global relations.

To view my remarks from today’s event at Camp Mabry, click here.