Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Webb County Land Owners Share Concerns About Border Violence, Wildfires

Like landowners in the rest of our great state, farmers and ranchers in Webb County kept a cautious eye on the approaching heat from last year’s historic wildfires. It’s heat of another kind, however, that threatens all border counties in the forms of spillover drug cartel violence.
Today in Laredo, I visited with local farmers, ranchers and citizens to discuss both issues during roundtable discussions on their home soil and heard firsthand their very real concerns.
With respect to wildfires, the roundtable group was in agreement that the newly established Texas Wildfire Prevention Task Force is a good first step. I recently convened the task force in an effort to maximize fire prevention and mitigation strategies across the state through coordinated help from statewide leaders and first responders. We have held meetings in Austin, Fort Davis and now Laredo. It’s our goal that these discussions will lead to better coordination, swift communication and decisive action to better protect Texas citizens and property before another round of wildfires gets the upper hand.
Defending against spillover drug cartel violence is another matter altogether. While the roundtable group was quick to praise the efforts of local and state law enforcement and Border Patrol agents, it was equally quick to express frustration over the lack of sufficient federal assistance. Local landowners, residents and others – myself included – still cannot fathom how our federal officials can continue to proclaim our border is “safer than ever”− as our President Obama and his senior staff have claimed − in the face of such compelling evidence to the contrary. How can the federal government continue to ignore its constitutional duty to protect its citizens on American soil? Stray bullets, drug smuggling, trespassing and human trafficking are not just border region problems; they’re a national security breach that can and should be stopped at the doorsteps of our border communities.
Finding solutions is not always easy, but it certainly helps to invite local input. While local landowners are grateful for all that’s being done, I heard two main points from these people today: More resources are needed and so is expanded, direct communication between landowners and our federal agents. Our Border Patrol has always been accommodating to meeting with landowners any time we ask and I look forward to facilitating more discussions in the future.
Maybe Washington insiders should consider such roundtables with those who reside and work in harm’s way. Or maybe they should take the advice of retired U.S. Army Major General Robert Scales who suggested at our Border Security Summit last September that our federal leaders fill up their gas tanks, drive south and talk to border landowners, real estate agents, ranchers, farmers and other citizens to get the real story. After all, the truth is harder to ignore when you see and hear it up close and in person.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Remember the Heroes on Memorial Day

In our daily rush to Starbucks, school and work, we often lose sight of the important things in life. Things like freedom, family and faith. These are the gifts that make America great, but they weren’t won in a lottery.

Our blessings of peace and good fortune were fought for and defended by our men and women in uniform. These are the heroes who sacrificed for the greater good of their families and country. They sailed the seas, flew through the skies and marched into hostile territories so their sons, daughters and loved ones would know peace at home. They stood in harm’s way defending our freedom and they paid the ultimate price.

If not for the courage of our fallen patriots, the land of the free might not be so free. Look around the world today and you’ll find chaos and death in Syria, Somalia and Yemen to name just a few. These places may be out of sight, but they must never be out of mind -- nor should the memories of our heroes who spared us a similar fate.

As we make plans for the Memorial Day weekend, let’s remember to honor our fallen troops and say a prayer for those still on the frontlines. We owe the men and women in uniform our freedom and it is our duty on Memorial Day to make sure the ultimate sacrifices of our fallen heroes are never forgotten.

God bless our soldiers. God bless Texas. God bless America.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Jeff Davis County Rebuilds from Historic Wildfires

Commissioner Staples meeting with landowners in April, 2011

In a state as big as Texas, it’s still hard to escape the devastation of last year’s historic wildfires. From charred land and destroyed homes to lost fences and uprooted livelihoods, the damage persists nearly one year later.

This is the story in Jeff Davis County. Recently I toured the area and spoke with local leaders and landowners. I witnessed wreckage and loss, but I also saw resolve and hope. People are struggling, but they’re also determined.

Joining me for a roundtable discussion were Jeff Davis County Judge George Grubb, Sen. Jose Rodriguez and local residents. After hearing several stories, I am convinced the local officials and residents know better than anyone how best to protect their community from repeat rounds of relentless fires. They know the land and have the initiative, but they cannot go it alone.

Like citizens in many other Texas communities, they will need coordinated help from statewide leaders and first responders, which is why I recently established the new statewide Texas Wildfire Prevention Task Force. The task force was convened to maximize fire prevention and mitigation strategies across the state in an effort to protect Texas citizens and property before the fire sparks. 

The people of Jeff Davis are recovering and rebuilding. It’s my hope that the Texas Wildfire Prevention Task Force will protect them and the rest of the state as we move into the future. For more on the trip to West Texas you can watch this story from KXAN-TV.

Texas City ISD Sets High Standards

Four elementary schools in Texas City ISD − 100 percent of its elementary campuses − did what only a handful of schools across the country have done this year. They received the Gold Award of Distinction from the United States Department of Agriculture.

The award is part of the HealthierUS School Challenge that was established to recognize schools creating healthier school environments through their promotion of good nutrition and physical activity.

Reaching this highest level of recognition is a tremendous undertaking that started with a challenge by Region 4 Education Service Center (ESC) Specialist Jill Eagan. TCISD Nutrition Services Director Gene Roblyer along with TCISD Nutrition Operations Supervisor JoAnne Lloyd and the Texas City team went to work capitalizing on the already good practices and high standards at the elementary campuses.

Achievement of this level only comes about with leadership from school board, administration and teaching support. Congratulations to all at TCISD for making it happen!

With at least 50 percent of health care expenses being lifestyle related and preventable, we all should pitch in to help our schools educate our children about the 3E’s of Healthy Living − Education, Exercise  and Eating Right!

Congratulations to the TCISD elementary schools and their food service managers for achieving excellence!

TCISD Gold Award of Distinction Winners

Heights Elementary School: Teresa Lara, food service manager
Kohfeldt Elementary School: Cathy Miranda, food service manager
Northside Elementary School: Melissa Marcum, food service manager
Roosevelt-Wilson Elementary School: Aynur Hodge, food service manager

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Legacy of a True Ag Champion Lives On

Texas agriculture lost a legend Tuesday morning when S.M. True died in a farming accident, according to the Plainview Daily Herald. The report indicates Mr. True was at work beneath a tractor when a piece of machinery fell on him. He died at the scene at age 88, but his legacy will live forever.

Mr. True’s dedication and commitment to the land helped make Texas agriculture the $100 billion powerhouse of productivity we all benefit from today. Not only did he roll up his sleeves and work hard to produce affordable, quality food and fiber for Texas and the world, Mr. True also helped shape policy that allowed his fellow farmers to do the same. His influence and impact were more than immense; they were, and remain, immeasurable.

A champion of Texas agriculture since childhood, Mr. True would go on to serve as president of the Texas Farm Bureau for 11 years where he ensured the TFB was front and center on issues affecting our state’s farmers and ranchers. Kenneth Dierschke, current TFB president, called Mr. True a “giant,” in Texas agriculture adding, “S.M. True has left a towering legacy at Texas Farm Bureau. Serving the farm and ranch families of Texas was his passion. He was still doing that as long as he lived.”

Gov. Rick Perry, a former Texas Agriculture Commissioner for eight years, spent a great deal of time with Mr. True and said, “He was a pure gentleman and a true Texan who profoundly loved the state, particularly our agricultural heritage. He left this world doing what he does best — engaged in the production of food and fiber. He will be sorely missed by all Texans — city dwellers and ranchers alike — whether they knew him personally or not.”

Mr. True also served on the board of Cotton Inc. for 21 years. His impressive leadership credentials included tenures on the board of directors for the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Meat Board. He also was a key figure in organizing the National Grain Sorghum Producers organization.

Through his stewardship, leadership and dedication to building a better Texas through service and the promotion of production agriculture, Mr. True also was the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions, including a Meritorious Service Award from the Texas Farm Bureau, a Distinguished Service award from the American Farm Bureau and a place in the Heritage Hall of Honor at the Texas State Fair in 2002.

As Texans and Americans, we are blessed with the safest, most abundant and most affordable food supply in the world. For that we can thank “giants” like S.M. True who made it his lifelong work to put Texas at the forefront of worldwide agriculture.

Texas was built on the shoulders of giants, but giants are nothing more than ordinary men and women who have an inordinate passion for building a better Texas.

Our condolences and heartfelt thanks go out to Mr. True’s family and friends. Texas will miss you, good sir, but your legacy and contributions will never be forgotten.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Hand That Rocks The Cradle...

...Is the hand that rules the world.   

These words from the poem written in the 1800's by William Ross Wallace remind us of the powerful influence mothers have on our society. More than a provider of love and care, a good mother is life’s greatest blessing. Nobody’s words are more soothing. Nobody’s embrace is warmer. Nobody’s heart loves stronger.

A good mother doesn’t just bring you into the world; she also walks you through life.

Many mothers today not only bring life into this world, work in the home and nurture children, but they work outside the home as well.  It amazes me how mothers are able to juggle diverse responsibilities. Whether a mother works in the home, works outside of the home or both, their influence on the lives of their children is essential to a well developed individual.

Whether you call her Mother, Mom, Momma or Ma, be sure to call or visit her today and thank her for enriching your life. Even if she is no longer is with us, her character and good deeds live inside you and you can give back in life in a way that will certainly honor her life.

To all the hardworking, nurturing women who make the world a better place by instilling goodness and love in their children, I wish you a Happy Mother’s Day.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Inaugural Meeting of Texas Wildfire Prevention Taskforce

As Texas continues to recover from the losses of last year’s historic wildfire season, yesterday I convened the inaugural meeting of the Texas Wildfire Prevention Task Force to maximize wildfire mitigation strategies across the Lone Star State. With a state as vast in size and as diverse in environment as Texas, we must be strategic in our wildfire mitigation efforts. For more on the new task force, check out this news story:

Thanks to Our Public Servants for a Job Well-Done

Public service is a privilege. And those who accept the challenge of a calling to serve their community should be thanked daily. In honor of Public Service Recognition week, May 6-12, I’d like to recognize and pass along my appreciation to the many hard-working men and women who proudly serve our great country as federal, state, county and local government volunteers or employees.

Whether it’s a volunteer board member, an elected official, or a government employee, public servants are the building blocks of our communities. They are the men and women who educate our children, provide consumer protections, and risk their lives to fight fires and crime. They bring order to our daily lives and help shape future generations.

Here at the Texas Department of Agriculture, we proudly serve our fellow Texans through initiatives that grow our economy, support farmers and ranchers, protect consumers and promote healthy lifestyles for children and their parents. Our commitment to the people, products and communities of Texas is a daily responsibility, but it’s also inspiring and rewarding.  We know the the regulatory role we play is a serious responsibility and must be used to support our private sector, not become a stumbling block.

As we salute our public servants this week, please take a moment to thank the men and women in your community who work hard on behalf of all of us today and throughout the year.

Thursday, May 3, 2012


With the national unemployment rate hovering just above 8 percent, it is encouraging to see Texas communities, large and small, creating new jobs.  

A couple years ago, the Texas Department of Agriculture awarded a downtown revitalization grant to the small town of Cisco, located about 45 miles east of Abilene. Cisco, known for being the site of Conrad Hilton’s first hotel, used the grant to provide street improvements, safe parking and handicap access to the town's historic downtown area. With those funds, the forward-looking city has seen a boom of new business activity. Recently, a dance studio, barber shop and insurance company have opened their doors in downtown Cisco. A Family Dollar store is now in the works and a pizzeria is on the way. These new businesses are providing valuable job opportunities for Cisco residents and have helped revitalize the city for families to enjoy.

For a number of years, TDA has made a priority of revitalizing rural downtown areas.  With the Downtown Revitalization Program, Texas towns are awarded up to $150,000 in federal grants twice a year. This money helps to significantly revitalize and preserve the many historic downtown areas that represent the Lone Star State’s heart and soul.  

With its recent improvements and economic development, Cisco is another example of why Texas is one of the greatest states in the nation for residents to live, work and raise a family.