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 ProtectYourTexasBorder.com, 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.