Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Proud to be an American

On Tuesday, I had the privilege of observing the Naturalization Ceremony in Judge Lee Yeakel's court, which was held at the Delco Activity Center in Austin. Neil Cooke, a TDA systems analyst, took the Oath of Citizenship along with 984 people from 105 different countries. I must say it was an amazing and emotional sight to see people from all over the world join our ranks as Americans.

As Americans, we are proud of many things: our amber waves of grain; our purple mountains majesty; our fruited plains. But nothing, I mean nothing, stands in comparison to our people -- people who were fortunate enough to be born in the land of the free or people who chose to join the home of the brave. Our people are what makes us the strongest and greatest nation on earth. May God continue to bless the United States of America.

A verse from "America the Beautiful" captures the moment:
Oh beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years.
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears.
America! America! God shed his grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea.

Congratulations to Neil, Sowjanya Katpalli and Hong Su who also recently became United States citizens. It is an honor to work with my fellow colleagues at TDA and now also my fellow Americans.

God Bless the USA, and GO TEXAN.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Mexican Agriculture and American Consumers Impacted by Cartels?

A recent story in the McAllen Monitor raises the question of whether or not produce imports from Mexico are being impacted by drug cartels or simple economic and natural conditions. On one hand, economists may argue that rising prices can be blamed on added precautions needed to avoid drug cartels. On the other hand, those prices may be chalked up to the unavoidable costs of doing business.

In this case, it looks like both hands are full, as in, full of trouble. But one hand is full of trouble that can be avoided.

According to the story, some sources suggest the cartels are "charging" produce shippers for safe passage of their trucks, and sometimes even hijacking their supplies. They also say the necessary re-routing and safety measures they’ve had to implement to secure their produce supplies are impacting their businesses. Couple these problems with the normal challenges farmers face, such as extreme weather conditions and high energy prices, and you’re left with consumers picking up a hefty tab.

Food producers and consumers alike have long been accustomed to the normal effects on food prices such as weather patterns and economic conditions. But no one should be forced to accept higher food prices at the hand of drug cartel violence – especially when it could be avoided if our federal government would acknowledge and address the situation.

As you can read at, the drug cartel danger is very real and being felt right here in Texas. Regardless of which hand you look at, the negative impact of violent drug cartels has Texas and American agriculture producers and consumers paying higher prices.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day is Every Day for Hardworking Farmers and Ranchers

As the world celebrates Earth Day today, I’d like to recognize the world’s original environmentalists - our farmers and ranchers. For centuries, the men and women who feed and clothe their fellow citizens have always known the value of protecting their land and animals.

Farmers and ranchers work hard every day to keep the Earth healthy, productive and sustainable. In the end, that means cleaner water, improved wildlife habitat and erosion protection for the rest of us to enjoy along with our abundant, safe and affordable food supply.

I invite you to visit our website, Agriculture is Your Culture, to learn more about how farmers and ranchers protect our environment. On Earth Day and every day, let’s appreciate our farmers and ranchers who were “green” before it was trendy.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

San Jacinto Day Honors Texas Independence

Ask a group of proud Texans to name the most decisive date in our state’s history and April 21, 1836 would get quite a few votes for sure.

On this date, 175 years ago on a battlefield near the modern-day city of La Porte in Harris County, the Lone Star State won its independence from Mexico after General Sam Houston led a successful surprise attack against Santa Anna’s army at the Battle of San Jacinto. Incredible as it sounds, most historians agree the battle was over in about 18 minutes. Even more astonishing was the death toll, which counted some 650 Mexican fatalities versus only nine fallen Texans.

The determined Texans were undoubtedly driven by the call of revenge following Santa Anna’s earlier massacres at the Alamo and Goliad. It was at the Battle of San Jacinto where cries of “Remember the Alamo!” and “Remember Goliad!” entered into infamy. In addition to those killed at San Jacinto, Houston’s men captured another 700-plus Mexican soldiers. The following day, Santa Anna himself was captured and relinquished control of Texas.

Over the past 175 years, much has changed, but some things remain the same – and that includes Texas pride and independence. As you enjoy the official state holiday today, please take a moment to remember its origin. Remember the Battle of San Jacinto and enjoy your Texas independence, which was fought for and won on San Jacinto Day.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Historic Downgrade Calls For Shock Sentencing

In the world of criminal justice, there is a concept called “shock sentencing,” whereby a judge orders a convicted offender to an initial short-term prison sentence followed by an extended period of probation. I think it’s time we extend this concept to the world of federal fiscal responsibility.

The downgrading of the credit rating outlook from "stable" to "negative" of your country and mine is criminal and should "shock" our collective consciousness. According to, the United States’ credit rating outlook was recently downgraded from “stable” to “negative” for the first time in our country’s history. The stock market rewarded this new failing grade with nearly 250 points at its low point during the day, and then eventually closing with a 140 decline. The market's fear is justified: without a change in the way D.C. operates, our credit rating itself could be in jeopardy. It’s past time our leaders in Washington change their ways, regain control and steer our country out of the red.

As CNN reported, “S&P said its outlook change was based on the growth of the United States’ deficits over the last several years as a percentage of gross domestic product, the broadest measure of economic activity. From 2003 to 2008, the nation’s general government debt varied between 2 percent and 5 percent of GDP, which is “noticeably larger” than other countries with “AAA” ratings, according to S&P. In 2009, as the government increased spending to stimulate the economy, the U.S. debt load “ballooned” to more than 11 percent and has yet to come down, said S&P.”

The verdict is in: The national debt of the United States is a crime against basic economic principles and calls for nothing less than the swift justice of a “shock sentence.” The American people must stand up and offer some tough love in order for our national leaders to make the decisions needed to avoid going deeper into this fiscal melee. If we don’t, we face the tougher punishment of exporting jobs overseas.

And if we truly want to avoid this even harsher punishment, how about not raising taxes in order to balance the books? As the article suggests, what got us into this mess was a spending problem, not a revenue problem.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

SCR 36 - A Call for Congressional Border Action

The Texas Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee recently considered Senate Concurrent Resolution 36, which calls on the U.S. Congress to develop a plan to protect Texans and secure our border.

The resolution urges Congress to prepare a cost analysis of the funding necessary to fully enforce all federal immigration laws in Texas. The resolution also calls for Congress to report that figure to the Texas Legislature along with the status of the funding. Additionally, the resolution requests a meeting among Texas leaders and Congress to discuss the ongoing border security crisis.

This bipartisan resolution recognizes the many failures of current policies to adequately address border security. Moreover, it reasserts the need for the federal government to act on its Constitutional duties to protect your Texas border.

For full text of this resolution and a list of senate sponsors, go here. Also, visit to hear true testimonies from Texas farmers and ranchers who work so hard to feed our nation, while being literally terrorized by criminals who illegally enter the United States and in so doing, threaten the sovereignty of our country.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

SB 18 Defends Private Property Rights

It is a great day in our grand state. In Texas, our home is our castle and our land is our legacy. Legislators in the House reaffirmed that belief today when they passed SB 18, which establishes eminent domain reform for Texas home and landowners. Earlier this session, the Senate approved the bill.

SB 18, authored by Sen. Craig Estes and Sen. Robert Duncan, enforces what the Texas Constitution guarantees – private property owners will be protected from intrusive condemnation proceedings. Among other things, the bill says property may only be taken for a public good 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 progress has not been made on the public project in 10 years. 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 won the hard-fought private property owners’ rights battle once SB 18 is signed into law.

Don’t mess with Texas, and don’t mess with Texas land. That’s what this bill says.

Stop the Overreach

Last week, Americans waited to hear that Congress narrowly avoided a shutdown of the entire government over what was feared to be a failure to agree on ways to rein in out-of-control federal spending. Additionally, the U.S. House of Representatives thankfully moved to shutdown one specific component of our out-of-control federal regulatory stranglehold.

The Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011 passed the U.S. House last week with a bipartisan vote of 255-172. The bill removes EPA of authority to implement its overreaching attempt to regulate greenhouse gases and raise energy costs for American families and businesses.

EPA’s proposed regulatory scheme will have profound negative impacts for refiners and energy producers while gas prices are currently hovering around $4 a gallon. Additional increases in electricity and fuel costs will hit farmers, ranchers and American families especially hard at a time when many are struggling to make ends meet.

Americans should not have to endure regulatory policies with CERTAIN costs and OBSCURE benefits. EPA administrator Lisa Jackson has said repeatedly that unilateral regulation by the United States will not improve our environment, and that greenhouse gas regulation’s benefit to the environment is negligible.

Unelected bureaucrats at the EPA have increasingly exceeded their authority at the expense of the American taxpayer. While there seems to be hope for American families through the Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011, sadly, the president has indicated he would veto the Act should it reach his desk.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Help Your Fellow Texans

High winds and hot temperatures have fueled 183 fires across the state in the past seven days, displacing more than 100 Texas families and scorching more than 400,000 acres. Since January, nearly 1 million acres have burned across the Lone Star State, according to the Texas Forest Service.

These raging wildfires are catastrophic in nature, destroying homes, killing livestock and devastating the livelihoods of farmers and ranchers who dedicate their lives to supplying us with food, clothing and other essential daily needs. As these fires sweep through rural Texas, fences are dismantled and cattle and other livestock are left to roam. Today, I saw that devastation firsthand through an aerial and ground tour of the area.

And now I’m asking all Texans to help me help our fellow Texans by making a donation to the State of Texas Agriculture Relief Fund, or STAR Fund. I created this fund to collect monetary contributions from private individuals and entities to assist farmers and ranchers in responding to and recovering from an emergency. The STAR Fund may be used to rebuild fences, restore operations and pay for other agricultural relief efforts.

We are Texans, and when disaster strikes, our citizens rise to meet the challenge. I ask all Texans who have the means to assist their neighbors in need to please come forward and show their support. To make a monetary donation to the STAR Fund, visit and click on STAR Fund under Most Popular Links.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Congress Should Provide Relief for Pesticide Applicators

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives approved HR 872 in a move to repeal a 2009 federal court decision that would require pesticide applicators to comply with duplicative regulations.

For decades, the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) has been used to protect our water resources from harmful pesticides. However, last year, the court determined farmers treating weeds or public health officials spraying for mosquitoes, for example, should be required to comply with FIFRA and obtain a Clean Water Act (CWA) permit administered by EPA.

Realizing the potential of additional CWA regulation, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and TDA have been working to develop a regulatory program that meets federal standards and can be used broadly to minimize the burdens of new permitting and reporting requirements.

I hope Congress will take action and provide the guidance necessary to prevent the over-regulation of pesticide applicators by clarifying that FIFRA is the best framework for protecting the environment from improper applications.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Planting the Seeds of Common Sense

In the world's zest to protect the environment, it seems we sometimes can't see the forest for the trees.

In describing the World Wildlife Fund’s efforts to prevent printing and paper use, this recent Wall Street Journal editorial demonstrates that just because someone has an idea they think is "green," it may not always produce an environmental benefit. The editorial’s authors point out that efforts to stop the use of paper are seeking to address a problem that just doesn’t exist.

The truth is, paper is biodegradable and is produced from sustainable forests, which provide habitat for wildlife and clean our water, air and soil. Our forests are also a naturally organic process. If you follow the logic, using less paper reduces the need for forests and reduces the incentive for reforestation, meaning paperless initiatives could actually result in harm to the environment.

This WSJ editorial highlights just one of the paradoxes of environmental rhetoric, and a truth you can count on -- Texas farmers, ranchers and forest landowners are protecting our natural resources while producing the food you eat, the clothes you wear and the paper you use. Visit Agriculture Is Your Culture to learn more about the original environmentalists.

P.S. One final thought - If you like the WSJ article, circulate widely, please, preferably after printing and copying.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Texas Congressman Attempts to Kill Death Tax

Last week, Texas Congressman Kevin Brady filed a bill to permanently repeal
the death tax – the tax paid when heirs inherit farms and ranches.

The inherent problem with this estate tax, other than it being double taxation in
most instances, is that it is often too high for families to afford, leaving them with
no other choice but to sell off the farm, agriculture land and capital that has been
in the family for generations.

At a time when fewer Americans are engaging in production agriculture, it should
be a priority for us all to end this double taxation to ensure we have the farms
and ranches needed to produce the food we eat, clothes we wear and timber that
builds our homes.

To read more about Congressman Brady’s efforts to kill the death tax, click here.

Monday, April 4, 2011

More Cotton to Cuba

In March, a shipment of Texas cotton valued at more than $550,000 was exported to Cuba. This contract, negotiated by TriDimension Strategies in Dallas, is great news for our cotton farmers and a hopeful indicator of possibility.

I don’t agree with Cuba’s political philosophy and realize there are very real points of contention between our countries. I do believe that cracking the door to communication can lead to new degrees of understanding. If quality Texas cotton is what opens the door to dialogue, then all the better.

In 2008, I led a delegation of Texas agriculture leaders on the first official state sponsored trade mission from Texas to Cuba in more than 45 years. This shipment of Texas cotton illustrates how we can participate in the Cuban market, creating opportunities for Texas farmers and exporting the principles of our republic, and help secure more Texas jobs.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Beekeepers announce 2011 Honey Princess

Congratulations to Allison Adams of Plano, Texas for being crowned the 2011 American Honey Princess. It is such an honor for the American Beekeeping Federation to appoint a Texan to this role. Allison is 19-years-old and has been beekeeping for six years.

While most of us would probably like to get as far away from bees as possible, people like Allison willingly get up-close and personal with them. She has demonstrated a commitment to the honey industry by staying active in beekeeping and getting involved with the ABF to increase the public’s awareness of the importance of the beekeeping industry.

In 2010, Allison was crowned the Texas Honey Queen. With her new national title, it is Allison’s job to promote the honey industry across the country. She will spend her time visiting schools and other groups to share her knowledge of the honey industry, including facts, recipes and the benefits of buying local honey.

It is easy to overlook a little insect when you don’t consider its importance to Texas’ billion-dollar agriculture industry. With help from Allison and Texas honey producers, we look forward to sharing the goodness of Lone Star honeybees.