Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Proactive Texas Citrus Industry Stands Ready to Contain Disease

photo via Nathan Lambreacht,

You can never be over-prepared for adversity, which is why we at the Texas Department of Agriculture worked with the Texas citrus industry over the past several years to prepare for the possibility of the detection of citrus greening in Texas. The destructive plant disease attacks citrus trees, but leaves the fruit unharmed and safe for consumption.

At a meeting with citrus growers and nursery operators in McAllen this week, I was encouraged to see our industry leaders take confident steps toward containing and combating this disease, which recently was detected in a tree located in a San Juan orange grove. The detection prompted an immediate quarantine of the impacted area and quickly mobilized our industry experts. Proactive, rather than reactive, our team is methodically implementing its strategy to protect our $140 million citrus industry.

While grove inspections, treatments and regulatory measures take effect, it’s important to remember Texas citrus is safe for consumption. Again, this disease attacks only the citrus tree and not the fruit itself.

Our industry had the foresight to know this day was coming. Thankfully, we also had the smarts to have a plan so we can continue enjoying quality Texas citrus.

Monday, January 16, 2012

MLK’s Dream Lives On

Today we celebrate the legacy of one of history’s greatest humanitarians and are reminded that diversity and equality of opportunity make the world a better place. 

In one of the finest speeches ever given, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. envisioned a dream in which all men are created equal and free to pursue lives of happiness and prosperity. He spoke of a world in which humankind was blind to prejudice and opposed to unjust persecution. He spoke of unity, civility and humility. 

Take notice of your fellow man today. Is he or she so much different than you? Don’t we all want peace for our families? Don’t we all have talents and compassion? Don’t we all have dreams? 

We are a better people when we share and celebrate our strengths, respect our faiths and reach out to one another. Dr. King held these truths to be self-evident and if we look at the world through honest eyes, his vision should be shared by us all. 

Today and always, let’s embrace and honor through our actions the dream of Dr. King.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Rebuilding One Post At A Time

As Texas ranchers struggle to restore approximately 6,200 miles of fences lost to historic wildfires, I was honored to lead an effort in Bastrop County to help Larry Miller, a local rancher rebuild. Twenty-two additional Bastrop County ranchers are also receiving rebuilding vouchers worth $1,000 each through the Texas Department of Agriculture’s State of Texas Agriculture Relief (STAR) Fund.

The devastation in Bastrop County and across Texas is among the most catastrophic in the history of our great state. We need to roll up our sleeves and bring help and hope to fellow ranchers in desperate need of fencing. If you’re in the business of ranching, fencing is one of life’s basic necessities.

The STAR Fund was created solely with monetary donations from private individuals and companies, including Farm Credit, Valero and McCoy’s Building Supply.

To make a donation to the STAR Fund, or for more information, visit and click on STAR Fund. I encourage all Texans to assist fire victims in any way they can. Whether it’s a volunteer effort or donation to the STAR Fund, any assistance is appreciated. Click below to see TV coverage of our rebuilding efforts.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Texas Remembers the Generous, Entrepreneurial Spirit of Emmett McCoy

With the passing last weekend of McCoy’s Building Supply founder, Emmett McCoy, Texas lost a true entrepreneur and someone who generously gave back to his community. 

Mr. McCoy and his surviving wife, Mrs. Miriam McCoy, have been instrumental in supporting many causes to better their city of San Marcos. They also believe deeply in providing opportunities through higher education. In addition to numerous other generous donations, the McCoys gave $20 million to Texas State University in 2004, marking the largest philanthropic gift in the university’s history.

The McCoys also have a long-standing commitment to supporting Texas farmers and ranchers. When the Texas Department of Agriculture established the State of Texas Agriculture Relief (STAR) Fund to help rebuilding efforts following disasters, it was McCoy’s Building Supply that generously donated the first $20,000 to help generate momentum. This past year, farmers and ranchers across the state received $70,000 in STAR Fund assistance.

For these efforts and countless others, TDA honors and appreciates the life, leadership and generosity of Mr. Emmett McCoy. To read more about Mr. McCoy, go here.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Successful Eradication Campaign Rids Texas, United States, of Devastating Fruit Fly for First Time Since 1927

Four years of diligence ends 84 years of quarantine

AUSTIN — For the first time since 1927, Texas and the United States have been declared free of the citrus-destroying Mexican fruit fly following four years of successful eradication efforts by the Texas Department of Agriculture and USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). The final quarantine was lifted in Hidalgo County on Jan. 3, marking the eradication of the nation’s largest and final Mexican fruit fly stronghold in Texas’ Lower Rio Grande Valley.

“The Lower Rio Grande Valley is a world-renowned powerhouse of quality citrus production that contributes $140 million to the overall state economy,” Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples said. “After four years of diligence between Texas citrus producers and our agencies, an 84-year-old problem has been eliminated from Texas and the United States. The announcement that Texas and the nation are now free of the Mexican fruit fly is a milestone that holds great promise for the future prosperity of our citrus industry and economy. It also serves as a testament to the powerful partnerships that made this victory possible.”

In 2007, TDA in cooperation with APHIS and the Texas citrus industry, began a campaign to eradicate the Mexican fruit fly, or Mexfly, from the three remaining infested Texas counties in the Lower Rio Grande Valley (LRGV): Willacy, Cameron and Hidalgo, plus seven adjacent Mexican municipalities considered part of the LRGV. In 2008, Willacy County was successfully eradicated and the Mexfly quarantine was removed. In 2010, continued successful eradication efforts prompted the removal of the quarantine from Cameron County.

“USDA commends TDA and its citrus industry partners for their sustained effort leading to this historic milestone in pest eradication,” said USDA Deputy Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Rebecca Blue. “This event clearly demonstrates U.S. producers and agencies have the tools and perseverance to keep American agriculture free of exotic pests and competitive in the world marketplace.”

The Mexican fruit fly is native to southern and central Mexico. Each year, the pest enters the LRGV’s 27,000 acres of commercial citrus crops from south of the border and attacks more than 40 different kinds of fruits. Damage occurs when the female fly lays eggs in the fruit, which then hatch into larvae, making the fruit unmarketable.

The fly is also a threat to surrounding citrus-producing states, including California, Arizona, Louisiana and Florida. Economic losses due to infestation not only are measured in damaged crops, but also in costs associated with eradication and shipping protocols aimed at consumer protection.

Primary eradication tactics include surveillance; bait sprays and Sterile Insect Techniques (SIT), which will continue to be utilized to create a long-term, functional barrier to keep the LRGV and surrounding areas free of the devastating Mexfly.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Texas tops list of best retirement states

We’ve all heard the saying that those who weren’t born in Texas got here as fast as they could. And, really, who can blame them?

Besides being the greatest state to live, work and raise a family in, Texas also is the best state for retirement, according to this ranking by finance website, In awarding this honor to Texas, the site weighed such criteria as climate, life expectancy and economic conditions, including cost of living, job opportunities and taxes.

Many of these same factors – along with availability of health care, outdoor recreation, education and entertainment – help the Texas Department of Agriculture determine our GO TEXAN Certified Retirement Communities. The GO TEXAN stamp of approval ensures each CRC has met application requirements measuring desirability.

This type of news will come as no surprise to those who were born here (or got here as fast as they could). In recent years, Texas has consistently ranked near the top of most surveys measuring quality of life. As another familiar saying goes, “It ain’t bragging if it’s true.”

To learn more about the GO TEXAN Certified Retirement Community program, go here.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Goodbye to a year of challenge and hello to 2012

Texans, and particularly those in agriculture, will recall 2011 as the year of wildfire and drought, but I hope we also remember the past 12 months as a time of courage and resolve.

When we recall the racing flames that charred 4 million Texas acres, let’s also remember the heroic firefighters who rushed to save all they could. When we recall the punishing heat and drought that crippled our agriculture industry, let’s also remember the warm generosity that flowed from fellow farmers who donated hay and offered helping hands to salvage herds and crops.

Yes, 2011 was a year of unprecedented devastation and loss, but it also was a year that saw Texans helping Texans. Rebuilding will not be easy, but Texans will not back down.

As we welcome 2012, let’s do so with new hope, continued goodwill and thanks for life’s silver linings. Let’s pray for sufficient rain and continue supporting our farmers, firefighters and friendly neighbors who make it their life’s work to protect and provide for us year after year.

Happy New Year, Texas! May you and your family have a blessed 2012.