Monday, December 31, 2012

Cheers to a Prosperous 2013

We survived the Mayan apocalypse, crowded malls and fruit cake -- now it's time to get back to work and make 2013 count.

As a Texan, I'm excited about the new year. With a job market that is growing and low cost of living, Texas has never been a better place to live, work or raise a family. If you don't believe me, just ask the thousands of newcomers moving here from California and other states.

In 2013, it is imperative we continue supporting the policies of fiscal responsibility, fair regulations and low taxes that helped Texas weather the national economic downturn. As lawmakers across the state make their way to the Capitol for the upcoming legislative session, I pray they will lead with the wisdom and common sense that continues to keep Texas prosperous.

Despite all our good fortune, however, we still face many challenges. Texas has a serious water crisis, and the time is now for the private sector, municipalities, counties and the state to come together to develop long-term solutions to not only meet our water needs in 2013, but also for years to come. Last year, we were blessed to not repeat the treacherous drought of 2011, but more than 80 percent of our state still suffers from some degree of drought. Daily conservation needs to become a way of life for every Texan if we are to meet the demands of our growing state.

We also must continue to call on the federal government to secure the U.S./Mexico border. Our citizens can no longer tolerate the trespassing, intimidation and violence of Mexican drug cartels spilling over our porous border. I have heard the pleas of law enforcement and South Texans, and hopefully the federal government will finally heed the call.

No matter what 2013 has in store, Texans can overcome any challenge and turn opportunities into success. Welcome, 2013. We are ready!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Pray for Peace at Christmas

We enter the Christmas season with heavy hearts this year and a tighter grip on our families as our nation prays for peace. Be thankful this Christmas for all your blessings and mindful of your neighbors in need. Keep the faith in your fellow man, because good always overcomes.

We live in a world where actions cannot always be explained, but we also are children of a higher power who compels many to selfless deeds. Look beyond the headlines and you'll still find compassionate, caring souls who make it their life's work to heal, protect and teach. Strangers still reach out to strangers in helpful, everyday ways. Children are still cherished by the masses who view them as the angels they are.

More than anything this holiday season, take time to appreciate your true gifts - family, faith, food and shelter - and share them if you can. Kind hearts and goodness are all around us, they just work in humble ways.

Our prayers are with the families in Connecticut and those suffering around the world. We can't erase your pain, but most of us share it, because in the end, humankind is largely composed of good people -- and for that I am deeply thankful.

Let us not stand unaware in the face of the world's ills, but let us also not be blinded to the goodness of God's grace. I wish you and your families peace this Christmas and throughout the coming years. I also pray for our troops who serve apart from their families today. Merry Christmas, Texas, and God grant us peace on Earth.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Lawn Whisperer Speaks Volumes

If one thing became crystal clear during last year’s historical drought, it’s the fact that our water supply has its limits. As triple-digit temperatures scorched the earth and lowered lake levels, the demand for conservation awareness skyrocketed. With the continued dry conditions in 2012, the need for thoughtful water conservation persists and remains profound. 
The Tarrant Regional Water District has done an outstanding job of raising awareness and offering practical, common-sense tips for saving water. TRA spreads the conservation message with the help of the “Lawn Whisperer” character on television and Facebook. The Lawn Whisperer brings a bit of comic relief to an otherwise serious issue. Turns out we could all learn a lot from a guy who talks to turf.
Among the Lawn Whisperer’s many words of wisdom is the message that your lawn only needs to be watered once a week or less in the fall and winter. This may come as a surprise to Texans, who often feel inclined to overcompensate for the punishing summer heat, but this sage advice comes from the Lawn Whisperer himself -- and he talks to your lawn!
Take it from the Lawn Whisperer and others who know: it’s time to tighten the faucet, Texas. Our water supply and future generations are counting on us. Take a look around your home and fix leaky faucets, water only when your lawn needs it and turn off the water when you’re brushing your teeth or shaving. A few drops saved by 26 million Texans adds up to a whole lot more than just a few drops in the bucket. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Serving Texans For Decades

I like to think of anniversaries as milestones on the road to accomplishment. I also like to think of serving your state and fellow citizens as an admirable course of life.

For these reasons it gives me great pleasure each December to recognize state employees at the Texas Department of Agriculture for their dedicated public service. Day in and day out, these committed professionals rise to serve their fellow Texans in all manners of challenge, need and partnership.

While the entire TDA team makes me feel proud, I find myself especially inspired and impressed by those whose days of service number into decades. Bob Flowers and Joe Benavides are two such people. With 40 years each of service to Texans, Bob and Joe embody the kind of tireless work ethic that makes me grateful to call them colleagues.

Commissioner Staples, Bob and Lydia Flowers
As TDA’s Warehouse Coordinator, Bob has been instrumental in keeping our agency equipped with the tools and support staff needed to handle daily tasks efficiently and comfortably. He also has been a leader in representing TDA at the State Fair of Texas year after year. Simply put, Bob helps make it possible for TDA to do its job.

As Director for Consumer Product Protection, Joe plays a pivotal role in ensuring that Texans get what they pay for at the grocery store and gas pump. Among other duties, Joe and his team regulate scales to accurately record items weighed, the quality of fuel to ensure it meets national standards, and the grade and quality of eggs sold to consumers.

To these two men and the rest of the TDA team, I say congratulations and sincerest thanks for your service to the people of Texas.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Remember Pearl Harbor

Much like we remember the Alamo here in Texas, we also should not forget Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

Seventy one years ago on December 7, the early morning Japanese ambush on the U.S. Naval fleet resulted in the loss of more than 2,000 American lives. That act of war set in motion a chain of events that has come to define America in much the same way the Alamo defines the Lone Star State.

As in other tragedies, such as 9-11, the very best of our country was revealed in the days after that terrible attack. Americans always band together during tough times to fight for our founding principles, and in the end, I believe, we come out stronger and more united.

Today, let us remember Pearl Harbor and the men and women who died on that tragic day. Let us also remember to honor the men and women in uniform who continue to fight for our enduring freedom. Their service and dedication allow us the peace and security to raise our families and pursue the success and happiness that define the American dream.

God bless America, God bless our troops and let us always remember Pearl Harbor.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Misguided Owl Protection Shoots Down Jobs

In a move that surprises probably no one, Washington politicians and environmentalists have jumped the gun and are lost in the woods.

As Michelle Malkin writes in her recent commentary, the Obama administration is effectively taking hostage more than 9 million acres of West Coast timberland in order to “save” the endangered northern spotted owl. The gesture seems noble enough, until we learn the owls are not falling victim to wild-eyed lumberjacks, but rather another, more aggressive species of … owl!

Apparently the “endangered” owl has been on the decline for more than two decades with little to no evidence of man-made destruction. In fact, the only thing being destroyed is jobs as loggers and their support industries are forced to close shop. Meanwhile, the dominant species of owl has gotten so pervasive that bureaucrats have proposed shooting them!

Of course, this isn’t the first time the Endangered Species Act has misfired or otherwise failed to alter the course of nature. Since the ESA’s inception in 1973, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has implemented regulations to “protect” 1,400 animal species from decline in population by listing them as endangered. Yet ironically, they have de-listed only 20 of those. Wouldn’t a good indicator of success for government actions be measured by how many beneficiaries of those actions reached the point of no longer needing government intervention?

So why are the federal government’s mandates not actually helping species recover their populations? Because in many cases, the killers are not greedy humans running amok through the environment, but rather Mother Nature herself.

Before Washington goes killing jobs and wasting taxpayer dollars in the name of protection and regulation, it might want to determine what truly needs saving. Let’s start with jobs and taxpayer dollars.

To read Michelle Malkin’s commentary, go here.

Hilmar G. Moore Leaves a Legacy of Service

Heroes and legacies stand tall in Texas, and Hilmar G. Moore stands along with them. A pioneer cattleman and the mayor of Richmond, Texas, for an incredible – and record-setting -- 63 consecutive years, Hilmar passed away December 4, leaving us deeply saddened, but eternally grateful.

A straight talker with a strong work ethic, contagious sense of humor and unflinching belief in serving his fellow man, Hilmar was a steward of the land. While I was fortunate to visit with Hilmar many times, just last quail season, I had the opportunity to spend an afternoon with him and a few friends. We listened to many entertaining stories and caught a glimpse of a force that shaped Texas.
A cattle owner since the age of 6, Hilmar would go on to serve as Chairman of the Beef Industry Council and president of the Texas and Southwest Cattle Raisers Association. He also served on the Board of Directors of the National Cattlemen’s Association; and was a charter member of the American Quarter Horse Association. To each of these roles he not only brought his own passion and expertise, but also the lessons learned from the mentors who came before him. He loved the University of Texas football, but still found time to be friends with Aggies.

A patriot and World War II veteran, family man and champion of Texas, Hilmar G. Moore leaves behind a legacy of character, service and integrity. My thoughts and many thanks are with Hilmar and his family. Rest in peace, mayor. You will be missed.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

We Are Thankful

As we sit down at the table with family and friends this holiday season, let us remember to extend our gratitude to the farmers and ranchers who sustain our lives. It is these producers who rise every day to wrestle a host of challenges so that we may find our grocery stores fully stocked.

These dedicated men and women who make it their life’s work to feed and clothe our nation generate an economic impact of more than $100 billion each year for the Lone Star State’s economy. Agriculture also supports one in seven Texas jobs and has earned Texas the distinction of being the nation’s leader in cattle, cotton, hay, sheep, wool, goat, mohair and horse production.

Here in Texas, we are additionally thankful for a milder climate than we had last year. The historic 2011 drought and wildfires will not soon be forgotten, but it also could not leave us broken beyond repair. As the heavens granted us a little more rain and cooler temperatures, our farmers and ranchers have risen to rebuild. Their bounty is yet another of our many shared blessings.

As you wander the aisles of your neighborhood grocery store this holiday season, stop and think for a moment how the fresh produce, quality meats, dairy products and canned goods made their way to the shelves. And as you sit down for a holiday meal this Thanksgiving, remember to tip your hat to Texas farmers and ranchers who bring you the food that feeds your family and enriches your lives.

We know challenges and adversity may be potholes in the road ahead, but this Thanksgiving we are grateful for our ranchers, farmers, friends, families and God’s good grace.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Clemon Montgomery, a Friend of Texas Agriculture

Clemon Montgomery, a dear friend of Texas agriculture and the Lone Star State, passed away yesterday leaving behind a legacy of service that immeasurably improved our great state.

Clemon was an inspiration to me, personally, and made an impact on my life and career. His dedication and commitment to Texas is a model for my generation and for generations to come. A graduate of Sam Houston State University who also attended graduate school at Texas Tech University, Clemon served 10 years as Chief Deputy to the Texas Commissioner of Agriculture. He also served on numerous boards and was a true champion of Future Farmers of America where his knowledge, care and enthusiasm helped shape the lives of countless young agriculturists.

Clemon’s numerous recognitions and professional accolades include the first-ever FFA Hall of Fame Award and the award of Outstanding Achievements in Agriculture, presented by the Texas Senate and House of Representatives.

People like Clemon are individually unique in their contagious passion. For Clemon, a job was not work, but rather a labor of love from which we all stand to benefit for generations to come. My prayers, thoughts and thanks go out to Clemon’s wife, Carolyn, and their sons. Your loved one left Texas a much better state.

To read more about Clemon’s many accomplishments, go here.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Californians Are Welcome To Eat Meat In Texas

Reason No. 1,001 to move from California to Texas: We will cook you up a great steak on Mondays as well as the other six days of the week.

Not surprisingly, politicians in Los Angeles have done it again. The L.A. City Council has declared every Monday to be a so-called “Meatless Monday,” in which residents are encouraged to voluntarily abstain from eating meat.

Let’s revisit the facts. Research shows the healthiest diets include moderate portions of nutrient-rich meat and poultry. Contrary to “Meatless Monday” campaign claims, beef is both environmentally and nutritionally efficient. Cattle production requires less land, water and energy than in the past, and it provides 10 essential nutrients to your diet.

Of course, Americans should be eating more fruits and vegetables, but the key to healthy eating is a balanced diet that includes all the basic food groups. The fact of the matter is meat helps build a healthy body and its production and consumption contribute to our economy. Texas leads the nation in beef production thanks to our hardworking cattle producers who contribute $14.9 billion annually to our state’s economy.

If you ask me, leaders in California should be focused on serving up jobs rather than telling residents what to eat for dinner. Oh, and speaking of jobs reminds me of reason No. 1,002 to move from California to Texas: Texas is projected to grow at a rate of 1,500 people per day this decade. Now, that’s a lot of steak eaters, homebuyers and overall consumers ... all of which make for a good recipe!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Honoring Service and Sacrifice on Veterans Day

Thanks to the service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform, America enjoys the blessings of freedom like no other nation on earth. We also know peace here at home thanks to the courage and strength of our past and present troops.

On Veterans Day, we not only thank our soldiers for their battlefield bravery, but also for the many times duty required them to be apart from their families. We thank the husband or sister who braved a hostile enemy while loved ones gathered for a birthday party. We thank the brother or daughter who missed a home-cooked meal at Christmas so we could celebrate in peace. We thank the moms and dads in uniform who struggle to stay strong knowing their children back home will ask for them at bedtime.

To the troops who return home with physical challenges and troubled reminders, we pray for your recovery and inner peace. We wish you the same inner strength today that you relied on while serving. And although Veterans Day is directed at the men and women who’ve worn the uniform, we must also thank the families who love and support them. It is your prayers, letters and phone calls that help keep our soldiers going. It is your ability to tend to home and family that provide hope for a better day.

Below are some of the courageous men and women who know the sacrifices of service. To these men and women − and their families and fellow comrades − I say thank you for granting us the freedoms we enjoy each and every day, and for protecting us from those who wish us harm.

Frankie L. Wendel, PFC, US Army
1942-45, Cayuga, TX.
(Commissioner Staples'

Your service makes me humble and proud.

Please take time today to thank a veteran for your blessings of freedom, and may God continue to watch over our troops, their families and the United States of America. Land of the Free. Home of the Brave.

James L. Reed, PFC, US Army
1944-45, Dallas, TX. (Purple Heart)

Charles W. Prater, SGT FC, US Army
1945-55, Dallas, TX. (Bronze Star)

Tony Purcell, CPT, U.S. Army 

Donald G. Glessner, LTC, USAF (Ret.)
1967-87, San Antonio, TX

George F. Glessner, LT(JG) 
US Navy,1944-46, Darby, PA

Alison Batig, MAJ, US Army
1999-present, Tuscon, AZ

Stephen A. McGovern, Wagoner, 
US Army 
1918-1919, Phil, PA

Jon Garza, SGT, US Army (center)

Arthur J. Dembik, PFC, US Army
1944-45, Buffalo, NY

Anthony White, SSgt., USMC
2000-present, El Paso, TX

Jerry L. Starkey, OSCS (E8) US Navy
1956-85, Dallas, TX.
(Navy Achievement Medal)
Ed Donahue, U.S. Navy
1943-45, Chicago, IL

Barry McCaffrey, General (Ret), US Army
1964-96, Taunton, MA

Ronnie L. McKinney, SGT (E5)
US Army
1966-68. Dallas, TX.

James Pollard, PO1, US Navy, 1990-2002, Buda TX (back row, far left)
 G.Paul Tuttle, Pvt. US Army
1918-19, Fredonia, KS

O.E. (Bob) Morriss, Cpl, USMC
1943-1946, Bentley, KS

 Ira A. Morriss, Sgt, USMC,
Coyville, KS

Gene Paul Tuttle, Pvt, Army Air Corp.
1942-43, Fredonia, KS
 Gideon Wells Tuttle, Army,
Thayer, Kansas
Burney LaChance, Lt Col (Ret) USAF
1986-2011, Austin, TX

 Jeremiah Salame, Maj,
San Antonio, TX

Cynthia A. Miller, PO3, US Navy  
1983-87, Austin TX
John M. Lewis, SSG (P) US Army
Smithville, TX
Jessie Bettis, PO3, US Navy
1988-93, Waco TX
Bill Hoppe, Lt Col (Ret), 
USAF 1974-98, 
Nacogdoches, TX
Tim Batig, MAJ, US Army, 
Houston, TX

Gerhard Lundquist, US Army
1965-67, Seattle, WA
Shannon Lundquist, PO3, US Navy
1988-93, San Benito, TX.
(Two Navy Achievement Medals)
Earl Lundquist, E3, US Navy
1988-92, Seattle, WA
Brian Zink, US Navy
1989-92, San Jose, CA
 Rodney W. Lewis,
SSG (P) US Army
1974-85, Smithville, TX
Troy S. Watson, SSgt, 
Denton TX

Juan Rodriguez, PFC, US Army
            (Purple Heart)

John Gibson, SPC, US Army
John A. Tuley,  Lt Col, US Air Force 
1980-2001, Austin, TX
David B. Brown, 
Sgt USAF Reserve
Austin, TX
Charles Bowman, SGT, medic 25th Infantry,
Beaumont, TX. 
(Four Purple Hearts, 
Bronze Star pictured below)

Lora L. Lewis, SPC4,
US Army, 1975-77

Magnolia, OH
Miguel Bustamante, Sr.
MP, US Army,1968-69
Laredo, TX
Carl Myers, SGT, US Army
Port Arthur, TX
Anita G. Torres, Chief Hospital 
Corp Man
US Navy, 1980-2000
"Ted" Tedmon, Commodore, US Navy (Ret)
James Baumgartner, PO3, US Navy
1989-93, San Antonio, TX