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!