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.