Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Treat for Texas Agriculture on Oct. 31

After five long years of working to finalize three major free trade agreements (FTA), the U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement will finally take effect Oct. 31. This latest round of good news follows similar agreements with South Korea and Colombia, which took effect this spring. 

As Panama’s economy continues to grow, Texas producers of beef, poultry, cotton, corn, sorghum and dairy will enjoy new and better business as tariffs are eliminated and trade barriers are removed. As one example, Panama will immediately eliminate its 30-percent duty on prime and choice cuts of U.S. beef with other tariffs on beef being phased out over 15 years. 

A strategically important ally in Latin America, Panama has imported an average of $1.3 billion in goods from Texas between 2008 and 2010, according to the International Trade Administration. 

With the global marketplace becoming increasingly robust each day, it’s important that Texas and the United States continue to seek opportunities for our agriculture commodities and other goods and services. This new agreement with Panama is another step in the right direction. 

For more information, go here.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Rice Farmers May See Relief in 2013

In a move best described as cautiously optimistic, the Lower Colorado River Authority is recommending Texas rice farmers be spared from the emergency water prohibition imposed upon them last year in the wake of our historical drought. That’s not to say we’re fully recovered from the crippling effects of the worst drought on record, but it certainly counts as good news for those who work hard to feed us.

While the LCRA’s recommendation is subject to change due to weather, the current consensus to maintain water use is based on Travis County being upgraded to “abnormally dry” from the throes of “exceptional drought” where it stood last year. Travis County is home to lakes Travis and Buchanan, the LCRA’s two main reservoirs for Central Texas. Those lakes are still less than half full, but they are in better shape today than they were last year. Still, it’s important to note the majority of Texas continues to experience some degree of drought.

The collective hope is for Texas to have a wet winter this year, but obviously, that remains to be seen. In the meantime, we can be thankful for the LCRA’s early recommendation to keep water flowing toward our rice farmers. For the full story, go here.

Click here and you can compare Texas’ current drought status with last year’s.

Oct 25, 2011
Oct 23, 2012

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Polls Are Open

Early voting has begun in Texas. Now is your opportunity to have a say on who represents you on the county, state and federal level, and of course choose a president to lead our nation.

The freedom to choose is what characterizes our treasured democracy. It is a right that has been earned through the hardships suffered by past generations. We must cherish our right to vote, not discard it.

Your vote is your voice, so ensure that you are heard. Elected leaders do listen when you show your preference at the polls. Study up on the issues. Look at the history of the candidates. Find out what they've done and what the long-term consequences of their policies will be.

Don't miss this important opportunity to make a difference. Voting is not only a right, it's a duty. So be sure to cast your ballot! 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Loss of ‘Big Tex’ Marks the End of an Era

Sad news from the State Fair of Texas in Dallas today as iconic mascot “Big Tex” caught fire leading into the final weekend of this year’s annual activities. Initial reports indicate an electrical fire started the morning blaze that claimed all but the skeletal frame of the 52-foot-tall Texan.

For 60 years, “Big Tex” greeted fairgoers with his familiar “howdy, folks!” while becoming as much an attraction as any carnival ride, rodeo event or superstar concert entertainer. A snapshot of “Big Tex” was the ultimate State Fair of Texas souvenir.
At size 70, the boots of “Big Tex” will be hard to fill, but here’s hoping someone is already hard at work sizing up a successor. The State Fair of Texas just wouldn’t be the same without him.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

300 Million Trees Die After Historic Drought

Last year, Texans across the state felt the sting of the worst one-year drought in state history. Consumers dealt with extreme water restrictions while some cities saw their water supplies become so depleted that drinking water had to be trucked in from nearby towns. Total agricultural losses attributed to the devastating dry spell are estimated at over $8 billion for that one year period.

According to the Texas A&M Forest Service, we now learn, 301 million trees were killed as a direct result of the historic 2011 drought. It is a staggering statistic, yet that number represents only trees in rural and forested areas. It is believed an additional 5.6 million trees in urban areas also fell victim to the severe lack of rain.

Though conditions have vastly improved, it is important to remember more than half the state is still suffering from some degree of drought. We are not out of the woods yet and must continue to be diligent in our efforts to conserve water resources.

To read more about the Texas A&M Forest Service report, click here.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Survey Says Food, Water Are Undervalued Priorities

It speaks volumes about our many blessings here in America that most of us don’t worry about our food and water supplies. But, we can’t afford to take these items for granted.

According to a 2012 University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll addressing the most important issues facing Texans, none of the respondents listed food availability as a pressing concern. Furthermore, on the heels of the worst one-year drought in Texas history – a drought that resulted in water shortages, mandatory water restrictions and emergency water conditions − only 16 percent of respondents said water is as top priority.

Where our food comes from should be on everyone’s mind. As the bar chart below illustrates, an increasingly large amount of our nation’s fruit and vegetable supply is being imported. From 1980 to 2010, the percentage of foreign fruits and vegetables has grown from 13.9 to 33.5 percent.

What does this mean for consumers? It means more variety on the store shelves, which can be a good thing. It also means we need to take notice of how policies could be hindering domestic food production. Rising energy and input costs and the scarcity of water and a skilled workforce all create barriers for our farmers and ranchers.

We need an energy policy that encourages low-cost options; we need water supplies to meet the needs of all Texans; and we need a workforce that is skilled and reliable. We don’t like being dependent on foreign oil; we cannot become dependent on foreign food. It’s time to rethink our priorities.  

Friday, October 12, 2012

Operation Drawbridge Doubles Border Security Effort

This week in San Antonio, I was proud to see Texans step up boldly and continue our relentless efforts to provide increased protection from deadly Mexican drug cartels and the dangers of human trafficking.

Joined by Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw, Sen. Craig Estes and other state and federal leaders, I was honored to present a $225,000 grant to double the scope of Texas’ Operation Drawbridge.

Led by the Department of Public Safety, border sheriffs and the U.S. Border Patrol, Operation Drawbridge is a surveillance initiative that partners with farmers and ranchers who voluntarily agree to place motion-detecting remote surveillance cameras on properties in the Texas border region.

Since the beginning of this year, Operation Drawbridge has resulted in the apprehension of approximately 4,000 individuals and more than 10 tons of narcotics attempting to make their way through the porous border with Mexico. In other words, Operation Drawbridge offers photographic proof that our border is unsafe, unsecure and a serious threat to the domestic food supply, safety and national sovereignty enjoyed by all Americans.

The president and his administration can joke about alligators and moats, but the violence and criminal activity taking place on our border is no laughing matter to the victims of cartel criminals and the men and women in uniform who risk their lives to patrol and protect this dangerous region.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then Operation Drawbridge should get Washington’s attention. For more details and photos from Operation Drawbridge, click here.