Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Newly Launched TDA Blog

We're proud to announce the launch of our new TDA blog. It will include many new voices from TDA and cover a wide range of topics. 

To take a look at our newly designed site, please click here

Thursday, November 21, 2013

National Rural Health Day

Guest blog from Bryan Daniel, TDA’s Trade and Business Development Chief Administrator.

Today is National Rural Health Day, a time to recognize and honor the dedicated health care
professionals located throughout rural Texas who provide quality care and assistance to Texans who not only live in their communities, but who are visiting or traveling through.

Rural Texas is currently facing a shortage of physicians and health care providers face a unique set of challenges in meeting the needs of the three million residents who call rural Texas home, but in true Texas Spirit, they have dug in their heels continue to meet these challenges head on. Through determination and devotion, these professionals routinely provide residents quality care.

Rural hospitals are often the second or third largest employer in smaller communities and often offer the highest paying jobs in that area. Equipping rural hospitals with modern technology allows health providers access to the most advanced equipment and treatments options. The expansion of broadband service is helping health care professional receive training through online classes, keeping them informed of current industry trends. Additionally, through avenues, like tele-medicine, patients can connect with specialists, who may be several hundred miles away.

The Texas Department of Agriculture’s State Office of Rural Health is dedicated to assisting rural communities and helping them provide affordable, quality care to rural Texans. Today, on National Rural Health Day and every day we are sincerely grateful for the unceasing work the dedicated rural health care professionals who daily care for the health and wellbeing of our fellow Texans.

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Salute to our Soldiers, Past & Present

Service. Sacrifice. Courage. Patriotism. Bravery. These are just a few of the words that come to mind this Veterans Day as I think of the American soldiers, both past and present, who preserve the
foundation of safety and freedom for our nation. Today is a day where we, as civilians, can stop to recognize their sacrifices and honor the blessings of liberty they ensure for each of us, our families and our great nation.

Our service men and women are a true definition of bravery. They leave their families to fight wars, enter harm’s way and protect our land. They miss birthdays and holidays, births and funerals, times of joy and times of sorrows. But their valor and their patriotism never waivers.

This Veterans Day, join me in saluting those who are serving our nation today and those who have served our nation in the past. We live in a country where freedom and liberty are our most prized possessions. Through the courage and sacrifice of our mighty military men and women, we stand proud as a nation when we say God Bless America. May our brave soldiers continue to be blessed for their dedication to duty and freedom.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Living to Serve

Chalk up another big win for the state of Texas and the agriculture industry, thanks to the newest members of the Texas FFA. During the 2012-13 school year, the Texas FFA Association added more students than any other state in the nation. With 8,533 new members, total FFA membership in the Lone Star State now stands at 95,015.

Nationally, FFA set a record. Membership in the association stands at 579,678 students in grades seven through 12. More than 22,300 new students joined FFA last year. The number of local FFA chapters throughout the country has grown to 7,570.

You might be asking yourself, What does this mean to me and why is it so important? These FFA chapters are training our future leaders, developing responsible citizens and opening up minds to the world we live in — without abandoning the heritage that brought us to the level of prosperity we enjoy today.

I encourage urban and rural students to check out their local FFA chapter to learn about the many ways they can be a part of today’s agricultural world. From large animal veterinarians and biology researchers to marketing specialists and economic experts, today’s agriculture career opportunities are much broader than they were a generation ago. Texas agriculture will continue to be a large part of our state and nation’s economy, and I’m glad FFA is preparing some of our brightest leaders.

I continue to live by the FFA motto today, just as I did when I first memorized it; Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to Serve.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Remembering Phillip Caler

It is with a heavy heart that I write today. I am terribly saddened by the passing of Phillip Caler, 20, of Booker, Texas.

Phillip was involved in a tragic accident back in 2009, which occurred at a mall in downtown Indianapolis while he and his fellow Booker FFA members were attending the National FFA Convention. 

Since the accident, the FFA community from across this country and especially here in Texas have come together to offer assistance to Phillip and his family. Now we offer our strength, as we grieve his passing.

When the accident happened, the Booker ISD superintendent continuously updated the school’s website with news about Phillip’s condition. A Facebook group also was created to allow well-wishers to share their thoughts.

One post on the Facebook group called Thoughts and Prayers for Phillip Caler says, “FFA is a strong group and when one hurts they all hurt.” This statement rings true of the FFA organization. When we put on those blue and gold jackets, we become a family. 

This week, as Phillip is laid to rest, I send my thoughts and prayers to Phillip’s family and the entire Booker community. May the lord bring you peace, and I hope you will be able to lean on the support from your fellow Texans and the FFA. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Remembering Heroism, Honoring American Strength

On September 11, we’re reminded of the tragedy that occurred in New York City, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. on that fateful day in 2001. We lost thousands of Americans, and our nation was put to the test. But, America and her citizens rose from the ashes to be a nation stronger than ever.

Patriot Day marks the anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. It’s a day
we remember those lost. It is also a day that serves as a reminder that the American spirit is resilient. We are a people who overcome and prevail, regardless of the degree of difficulty or depth of pain.

Our nation is a force to be reckoned with. We must continue to stand true to the principles that make America a great place to live. We must respect and honor the value of our citizenship. We must encourage our private sector to continue building a strong economy by expanding job opportunities. We must encourage innovation to help our nation prosper. Doing so will ensure America remains a global leader, a prosperous nation and the greatest land on Earth.

When our nation is faced with challenges and hard times, we rise to the occasion with strength and valor. I’m proud to call myself a Texan and an American. Today, while we remember with solemn respect the enormous loss of life, we mark the 12th anniversary by expressing enduring pride in the deep and abiding strength that defines us as Americans.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Sex Offenders, Gang Members Smuggled Through Rio Grande Valley

“Sex Offenders, Gang Members Being Smuggled Through the Valley,” this recent headline from KRGV-TV in Weslaco really says it all about the current status of our border war. Things are not improving for our fellow Texans down south, and the danger is real. 

In the report, border patrol agents tell KRGV-TV that criminals coming across the border are changing their tactics. They are harder to spot, and the risk they pose is rising. The agents said more than 70 gang members associated with the notorious El Salvadorian gang MS-13 have been caught this year in the Rio Grande Valley and 20 sexual predators have been apprehended in the past month. 

These are statistics that are unacceptable. South Texans and our brave men and women in law enforcement should not have to live with daily threats of violence, or fear getting shot at on their own property or while out doing their jobs. 

KRGV-TV is doing a great job at informing the public about the consequences of living with an insecure border. Unfortunately, the situation for our fellow Texans isn’t getting any better. Please take the time to visit to view KRGV-TV report and hear the real stories from the people living on the frontline.  

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Texas’ Draw: Low Taxes, High Opportunity

As a Texan, I take great pride in my home state. This is truly God’s country, and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. It seems people across the nation are catching on that things are bigger and better in Texas.

U.S. Census data reports that Texas is the top state for relocation. A recent Dallas Morning News article notes that Texas’ big draw is highly influenced by jobs and our state’s commitment to keeping taxes low.

That same Dallas Morning News article cited new data from the Tax Foundation that ranks Texas No. 3 among states for bringing in the most income as a result of people moving into the state. Only Florida and Arizona ranked higher than us. A great deal of that income is from people moving away from high tax-and-spend states like California, New York and Illinois.

The main reason Texas, Florida and Arizona topped this list is simple. Texas and Florida are two of only seven states in the U.S. without a state personal income tax, and Arizona has the fifth-lowest state income tax rate in the country. Take California and New York: they are on the complete other end of the spectrum. It’s just plain common sense. When you tax people too much, take note that they are likely to move out of that state.

Work is another reason people are flocking to Texas. According to the Dallas Morning News, Texas businesses have created 293,000 jobs in the last year, which is more than any other state. So not only do families want to make Texas their home, so do businesses.  

To read the full Dallas Morning News article, “Texas gains people – and their income,” click here.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Happy Labor Day, Texas!

Here in Texas, we have always enjoyed a strong work ethic among our citizens, which is one of the reasons we’ve weathered the economic downturn much better than most around the nation. While other states were raising taxes and losing jobs, we were lowering taxes, reducing state budgets and creating more jobs. As we celebrate Labor Day, let’s salute all the Texans who wake up every day and contribute to our economy. Your initiative, pride and sense of self-worth are what drive our strong economic engine in the Lone Star State.

To stay on top, our state must get ahead of two labor problems. One is the skills preparation of our workforce. Businesses investing in Texas need the confidence that our education system is able to prepare their future workers with the technical skills necessary for their operations. Sometimes this comes through college education and sometimes it is in the form of vocational and technical education programs. Both educational resources are critical to ensure we provide students with the knowledge and skills to enter our workforce and expand the Texas economy.

It also is essential we push Congress to move forward with strategic immigration reform that consists of border security first, complemented by a flexible guest worker program based on market demands. Businesses here in Texas must have a steady flow of workers willing to work. As always, Americans must have the first opportunity at a job, and where Americans are not lining up to fill positions, we must ensure guest workers are available to allow businesses to thrive. But the system we have today, as well as some policies being debated in Washington, encourages the flow and hiring of undocumented workers ahead of Americans and legal immigrant workers. 

If you’re enjoying a day off this Labor Day, I thank you for your daily efforts to better yourself, your family and our great state. If you’re working, thanks for keeping the powerful Texas economy churning. And if you’re working hard to find work today, I offer my encouragement and commend you for being motivated to be part of the solution instead of the problem. Together as hardworking Texans, we will continue to lead our nation on the road to economic prosperity. Happy Labor Day, Texas!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Texas, the True Champion of Small Business

As the nation and other states have struggled with recent economic challenges Texas has bucked trends and continued to be a leader in job growth. In fact, Texas added 293,000 jobs between July 2012-2013 and maintained positive job growth for 39 consecutive months.

Texas has risen above challenges where others have fallen short because the citizens of Texas demand policies that allow business to thrive. Low taxes, fair courts and a predictable regulatory environment continue to attract businesses to Texas and provide an incentive to grow. The heart of our success and economic growth is small business.

Recently, I was honored to receive the Champion of Small Business award from the National Coalition for Capital. This acknowledgement is humbling and truly a tribute to the hard-working men and women of our great state. The innovation, dedication and vigor of the small business communities in our urban and rural areas are an inspiration to me. Supporting programs that boost small business is a safe investment that I know will keep the Texas economy as a model for the rest of the nation.

While the Lone Star State has much to be proud of, we still have work to do to meet the challenges ahead. We must develop solutions to deal with the ongoing drought, insecure border with Mexico and availability of a reliable and skilled workforce to ensure Texas businesses prosper. That being said, I am confident that Texans are up the challenge, and we will continue to do our part to lead the way.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Clay Birdwell Leaves a Legacy of Leadership

Clay Birdwell, a native Texan with a true passion for agriculture, passed away this morning
with his family by his side. Not only did he dedicate his life to raising cattle, he always went above and beyond in his service to the industry, becoming one of the great agricultural leaders in the Lone Star State. 

Born in Odessa, Clay earned his degree in business from Texas Tech University in Lubbock. Birdwell’s determination and commitment to agriculture are ever evident in his service on the board of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. He was elected multiple times to the TSCRA board, serving as director in March 1995, second vice president in 2009, first vice president in 2011 and most recently as president. Clay was also the president of Great Plains Cattle Feeders and Birdwell Cattle Co. in Hereford, Texas. 

The agriculture industry thanks Clay for his many years of service and accomplishments that will always be cherished. We offer our prayers to his family and we will continue to honor Clay by remembering the incredible legacy he has left behind. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Russian Delegation Travels to Texas

I recently had the opportunity to meet with President Rustem Khamitov of Russia’s Republic of Bashkortostan to open a dialogue about trade between Russia and the United States. Bashkortostan is one of the leading agricultural regions of the Russian Federation whose interests include timber processing, grains, meat, dairy products, horse breeding and poultry farming.

As Agriculture Commissioner, I’m very fortunate that I get to meet with people from all across Texas and around the globe. It’s through these meetings that we get to build valuable partnerships that results in a strong economy and more robust job growth from the private sector.

During my meeting with the 11-member Russian delegation, I had the opportunity to discuss trade opportunities for Texas livestock and other agriculture products. It was a focused, productive conversation that will hopefully lead to future collaborations. Here at TDA, we plan to work with the delegation, as well as their Minister of Agriculture, and it’s my hope that, ultimately, this will lead to stronger trade opportunities for Texas agriculture producers. This could be just the beginning of future partnerships with Bashkortostan, and I look forward to all of the possibilities.

Plus, we had the opportunity to share with them a Texas treasure—fresh Gulf shrimp. GO TEXAN member Quality Seafood prepared a delicious, fresh seafood salad using locally-grown products and Gulf shrimp. It was a great treat for us, and an excellent way to show our friends all Texas has to offer.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Calling FEMA Into Action

Wednesday marked the three-month anniversary of the tragic explosion at the fertilizer plant in the city of West. Several emergency responders were killed and a large section of the town was destroyed. This small-knit community was left with shock and grief—mourning those who were lost and looking for a way to rebuild. Last month, when the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) rejected West’s request for a major disaster declaration and much-needed assistance, I was disappointed to say the least. 

I am grateful that Governor Perry took action to appeal FEMA’s decision. Governor Perry called FEMA’s decision to deny further aid to West “simply unacceptable,” and I couldn’t agree more.

The West explosion inflicted severe damage to the city infrastructure, schools and residences. Any normal person would see the damage as nothing short of a disaster. We need a strong combination of local, state and federal assistance to help facilitate a full recovery.

President Obama said himself, “We’ll be there even after the cameras leave and after the attention turns elsewhere.” I urge FEMA and President Obama to hold true to his word and to his responsibility. He must act on Governor Perry’s appeal and deliver the aid necessary to rebuild West in the wake of this terrible disaster. Doing so will ensure that this Texas town can come back stronger than ever.

Click here to read a copy of my letter to FEMA. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Texas Law Enforcement Officers Fired Upon At Border

The Texas Department of Public Safety is reporting that on multiple incidents on Thursday, DPS Rangers and U.S. Border Patrol Agents were fired upon from suspects from Mexico. The incidents occurred along the Rio Grande River.

Thankfully, our Texas DPS and US Border Patrol agents were unharmed in this latest incident of criminals from Mexico attacking our country. This is yet one more example of why Texas landowners have been pleading with Washington for more resources. Our nation cannot allow cartels and criminal elements to take control of our border. If Washington continues to be unable or unwilling to do its job, Texans will meet any force with a stronger force.

Click here to read a press release from DPS.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

U.S. Citizens Living in Fear on Southern Border

American citizens should not have to live in daily fear of transnational terrorist attacks on
their home and land. However unfortunate, this is a reality for many South Texans. It’s a fear that comes from living along an insecure border. Through first-hand accounts, we hear the truth about what border life is truly like: property destruction, dead bodies, littered fields, criminal behavior, violent intimidation.

Some South Texans, who are fed up with the status quo, have banded together to fight the border infiltration. Groups like the Texas Border Volunteers, made up of private citizens, have emerged in the wake of our broken border and ongoing immigration crisis. Our federal, state and local law enforcement agents are to be commended for the individual efforts they invest into border security, but federal policy officials continue to under-staff and under-resource their needs.

Despite the fact that federal policy officials seem to be looking the other way, the efforts of these citizen groups aren’t going unnoticed. This recent, telling U.S. News & World Report article details the work being done by these volunteers, and highlights the non-stop flow of illegal traffic crossing and the fear experienced by our fellow Texans who are trying to work, raise families and live in peace along our porous border. Our country is becoming a land breached by drug smugglers, human traffickers and violence.

We cannot let this continue. We must continue to fight to fix our broken immigration system until the only word used to describe our border with Mexico is secure.

I invite you to read the full news article here, and let’s work together to raise awareness and fight to secure our nation’s border.  

Monday, July 8, 2013

Expanding Workforce Skills in Texas

Ensuring Texas workers have the skills to compete in today’s marketplace is key to continued economic success in Texas. Here at the Texas Department of Agriculture, we’re working hard to help education providers in rural communities equip students with the critical skills needed to meet local workforce needs—whether it’s through direct career training or a traditional college route.

TDA is currently accepting applications for our Parallel Pathways to Success grants, which help develop educational programs for students to earn vocational skills certifications or college credits at the same time they are completing their high school diploma.

Parallel Pathways is a terrific program that equips students with workforce skills that can be translated into successful careers. Since we started awarding Parallel Pathways grants in 2009, hundreds of current and former students have benefited from the program.

It’s through programs like Parallel Pathways that we can achieve the absolute best for Texas. Lampasas County Higher Education Center used a Parallel Pathways grant to help more than 600 students receive career and college readiness assistance. Take Knox City High School as another example: Grant funding helped more than 100 students enroll in dual credit courses, allowed more than 50 students to attend college and career fairs, and employed another 50 students in a summer work program through the Texas Workforce Commission.

Skilled workers are in demand in Texas, and we need them to ensure our economy continues to flourish. To learn more and find out if you qualify, I invite you to visit us online. The deadline to apply is July 11, so the window to take advantage of this opportunity is closing soon. Thank you for helping to shape the future of Texas’ workforce for the better.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

American Dream

We are blessed to be part of a nation where the opportunity for success is still very much alive. Yes, even after 237 years, the American Dream is still within the grasp of all, regardless of where we live, the color of our skin or the size of our bank account. We live in a nation where upward mobility is available to anyone who wishes to work hard, study and give back. Life is tough, and many have obstacles to overcome. There is no better place that provides the opportunity to overcome challenges than the United States of America.

I hope our generation never takes what it means to be an American for granted. Each of us should strive to serve more, vote more and do more for our neighbors.

Please take a moment to enjoy the video below about what being an American means to me. Have a safe and happy Independence Day!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Conserve Water Before the Tap Runs Dry

Ever wonder just how bad things have to get before you turn on the tap and no water comes out? Just ask the residents of Barnhart who recently ran out of water. The main water well in this small West Texas town recently stopped pumping, leaving residents without drinking water.

Oil and gas production is active in this area, which has offered a welcomed boost to the local economy. Without adequate water resources, the ability for Barnhart to support this industry will provide long-term challenges and could prevent future growth for other local businesses.

Unfortunately, Barnhart may not be the only Texas town struggling to supply sufficient water for residents. Without significant rainfall, other areas could face similar challenges. According to the Texas Commission on Environmental Equality, this is already a reality for a host of other towns that are currently dealing with serious water shortages.

As we officially welcome summer and the long dry months ahead, let us remember that a water crisis is not just a future concern for some of our fellow Texans. Their reality should encourage everyone to be forward-thinking about ways to conserve water before we all find ourselves with a dry tap.

Our economy and its citizens rely on an ample water supply for agriculture and business, and to meet the demands of our rapidly expanding population. We must all do our part to save water.

Click here to visit TDA’s “The Water Source” where you can learn more about the state’s water resources and visit to learn about ways to save water in your home. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Drug Cartel Far-Reaching from Border to North Texas

For far too long now, I’ve had to be one of many leaders and citizens sounding the alarm about the dangers of violent drug cartels and the threat they pose to our nation. Landowners living and working along the Texas/Mexico border have been the literal “canary in the coal mine.” They are the first to feel the sting of these transnational criminal organizations and are forced to live with the fallout.

Landowners haven’t held back in recounting the daily traffic, mayhem and downright terrorism caused by drug dealers along the border. Here at the Texas Department of Agriculture, we have painstakingly relayed how these criminally-organized gangs engage in illegal drug and human trafficking. We’ve also detailed to the federal government the abuse felt by those who provide us our food and fiber—our farmers and ranchers. Our mission is clear. We will continue to relay these stories until the federal government steps up to the plate and drops their signature rhetoric that the “the border is safer than ever.”

The truth is: the border is not safe. Until our government commits to defending our landowners and our sovereignty with every conceivable resource, and until all Texas residents no longer fear this terrorism, I will continue to spread the word and fight to secure our border.

Photo: Bob Booth, Star-Telegram
The recent shooting of a Mexican attorney with ties to drug cartels in the town square of Southlake, just outside Ft. Worth, shines the spotlight on the deadly tactics used by the ruthless and heartless thugs inside drug cartels whose reach can spread far beyond border regions. This Fort Worth Star-Telegram article demonstrates the undeniable truths that I believe every citizen will conclude: we must defend our landowners; we must protect our sovereignty; and we will secure our border. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Celebrating Great Dads this Father’s Day

On Sunday, we will celebrate Father’s Day and the men who make this day all the more special. Fathers not only teach their children how to ride bikes and play baseball, they provide the foundation for the guiding principles that carry their children through life. I’ve been blessed to have an amazing father, who was my role model and friend, and I am proud to be able to share the lessons he taught me with my own children.

Through my father’s example, I learned early in life the value of hard work and have incorporated that strong work ethic into my life and public service. My dad was a family man, showing our family strength and devotion every day. Even though he is no longer with us, I can still hear his voice and wisdom in my head, and that brings a smile to my face.

As a dad myself, I know being a father doesn't come with an instruction manual, although it would be nice if it did! We try to do our best to provide for our children, give them the best instruction and advice possible, and ask God to watch over our family.

To all Texas fathers, remember the best gift you can give your child is not something of monetary value, but the gift of time. The world is a tough place. To borrow from an old proverb, we need to not simply give our children a fish, but rather teach them how to fish so they can have the fulfillment and satisfaction of independence and self-reliance. 

Thank you for your perseverance, wisdom, discipline and support of your children. You’re helping make this world a better place. Happy Father’s Day!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Flag Day Celebrates Nation’s Independence, Principles

We celebrate Flag Day to commemorate the adoption of the American flag on June 14, 1777. The original flag displayed 13 stripes and 13 stars, which represented each of the colonies that had declared independence. Over the next two centuries, the number of stars in the American flag increased as the nation grew, finally capping at 50 when Hawaii joined the nation in 1959. 

As each star was added, the nation demonstrated its capacity to unite diverse groups of people around core American values. Each year, we celebrate Flag Day with a recommitment to our founding principles: democracy, liberty and independence. 

Democracy safeguards our liberty and independence in America. It’s through the democratic process that we have the right to choose our leaders, how we wish to worship and keep our government in check so our freedoms aren’t infringed upon.

A passionate commitment to liberty and independence has characterized Texas since the days of the Republic. Texans understand that we are better as a whole if each of our parts is strong. Our independent, can-do spirit is what makes the Texas economy one of the strongest in the nation. I hope Flag Day will inspire you to unify in renewing our commitment to liberty and independence.     

Monday, June 10, 2013

Porous Border Forces Texas Landowners Out Of Business

Every day, Texans are on the front line dealing with the challenges of having a porous U.S./Mexico border. Violence occurs all too frequently, and often, south Texas farmers and ranchers are the ones forced to deal first-hand with the dangerous, unsafe conditions that exist along the border.

Insufficient resources from the federal government and lackluster immigration reform are unacceptable to me. The dire nature of the current situation—a true lack of security along the U.S./Mexico border—becomes even more evident every time I hear personal stories from Texans dealing with the harsh consequences.

Rene Garcia of Penitas is one of these individuals. His story is all too often similar to many accounts we hear from the border. Garcia was recently highlighted in a KRGV-Channel 5 News report, which documented his family’s struggles including being forced to shutter their cattle business due to damage caused by illegal immigrants, who have trespassed and vandalized the land.

Garcia’s story highlights the federal government’s border security failures and the extreme lengths landowners have been forced to take to deal with the flow of illegal traffic. We know a debate is raging about our border: Is it secure? What does a secure border really look like? This video answers some of these daunting questions. To view the news story, click here.

Texans struggle every day in dealing with instability along the Texas/Mexico border. I invite you to visit, and join me in raising awareness about border challenges and help protect Texas landowners. 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Cattlemen Join the Call for Immigration Reform

In order to continue to provide the most safe and affordable food supply in the world, our nation’s farmers and ranchers need a reliable, dependable workforce. For real immigration reform to take place we must revamp our failed visa system for guest workers and international day laborers. 

The most recent guest column from the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association illustrates the desperate need for guest worker reform to help farmers and ranchers all across the U.S. Below is an expert of the column written by Pete Bonds.

“Let’s be clear, ranchers don’t support blanket amnesty. Amnesty and citizenship should be a separate debate. Let’s also be clear that these workers aren’t taking away American jobs. At our ranch in Falls County – a county with a high unemployment rate—we can’t find U.S. citizens who will do the hard work of ranching. We go through 5 or 10 U.S. employees a year because, when we do find someone, they typically quit within a few weeks. Migrant workers are simply doing the jobs that most Americans refuse to do.

“The livestock industry needs a steady, year-round workforce. This is why Texas ranchers support a plan that allows immigrants who want to work in the U.S. an opportunity to do so.”

I invite you to read the full column by clicking here.

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Meaning of Memorial Day

When you ask someone about what Memorial Day means to them you are likely to hear some common themes about sacrifice, courage, bravery, and honor. What we don’t always consider is the deeply personal stories that live behind these sentiments.

This year, I have enjoyed the privilege of hearing some of the personal stories that have shaped Memorial Day for several members of the Texas Department of Agriculture family.

I invite you to take a look at the videos below to hear these stories and my own thoughts.

Please, in your own way, take some time today to honor those men and women who paid the ultimate price for all of our freedom. We will not forget their service. God bless their families, God bless Texas and God bless the United States of America. 

Jessica Escobar
Assistant General Counsel and Public Information Officer,
Texas Department of Agriculture

Michael West
Coordinator for Rural Economic Development Financial Programs,
Texas Department of Agriculture

Earl Lundquist
E-Communications Specialist,
Texas Department of Agriculture

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Dalhart Welcomes Former FFA State President as New Mayor

A hearty congratulation goes out to new Dalhart Mayor Kurtis Thomas. It was standing room only Tuesday night at the Dalhart City Council as Kurtis took the reins from Mayor Kevin Caddell, who after serving as mayor for the past eight years decided not to run for re-election. What’s more impressive is Kurtis won 60 percent of the vote in a heated three-way race. That’s an accomplishment anyone who has ever even considered running for public office can appreciate.

Kurtis, originally from Pasadena, Texas, served as Texas FFA State President from 2001-
2002. During that time he traveled more than 60,000 miles across Texas speaking to high school students, large companies and organizations about agricultural diversity.

Following his year of service to FFA, Kurtis went on to attend Texas A&M University where he was selected for the Agricultural and Natural Resource Policy Internship Program in Washington, D.C. He graduated A&M Summa Cum Laude and has gone on to serve as on the Dalhart city council, the Bi-County Livestock Show Board of Directors and continues to volunteer with local 4-H and FFA programs.     

Public service is a privilege. Though still a young man, Kurtis has dedicated himself to that privilege and I am confident he will be guided by the values and principles he learned from FFA as he serves the people of Dalhart.

It’s inspiring to see how FFA is really shaping the young leaders in our state. Kurtis, just like Casey Hogan, who I recently congratulated for joining the Stephenville City Council, are not shying away from the call to public service but embracing the challenges and joys of working with local governments to create policies that will keep bringing jobs and prosperity to our great state. It can be hard work, but well worth the effort.

Best wishes to you, Kurtis as you make your mark in Dalhart. I am sure this is just the beginning of much more success.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

FFA Growing New Leaders

There really is something special about that blue and gold jacket. I often say the future of Texas is bright with FFA members leading the way and this week I am especially proud to see a fellow FFA member welcomed into the world of public service.

Hats off to Casey Hogan, 30, for winning election to the Stephenville City Council, Place 1. On Tuesday, Casey was sworn in to serve a two-year term. This was his first-ever official run for political office, but through his experience as Student Body President at Tarleton State University and Texas FFA Vice President 2001-2002, Casey is no stranger to leadership.

I had a very similar start as a public servant, first as Texas FFA Vice President and then as a member of the Palestine City Council. The common thread here is not so much the titles and the elected offices, but the foundation of leadership, character and citizenship we both learned during our time in FFA.

Congratulations also go to people like past state FFA President Marcus Hill of Fort Worth, whose mentorship and encouragement was an inspiration to Casey during his high school days. “Pass it on” is something most former FFA members do very well.

To this day, I remember the 12 words of the FFA motto, “Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to Serve.” These words have helped me serve the great people of Texas and I hope Casey Hogan will use them as he begins his work for the people of Stephenville. Congratulations again Casey, I am proud of your work and excited as you start this new journey.

It is not bragging if it’s true, and it’s true that FFA members represent the cream of the crop in Texas.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Honoring Texas Mothers

You know when Mother’s Day is near because the ads start filling up our mailboxes and inboxes with specials on flowers, candy, perfumes, cards and other items to show our moms how much we care. I can’t help but think the greatest gift we can give to our mother’s is living a life that respects the traditions, compassion, morals and convictions she worked so hard to give to us.

Like the great Dr. James Dobson says, “Children are not casual guests in our home. They have been loaned to us temporarily for the purpose of loving them and instilling a foundation of values on which their future lives will be built.”

I promise you my mother never treated me casually. She worked every day to instill in me the values of hard work, dedication and a can-do attitude. Never treated as a guest, I knew early-on that I had a responsibility to serve God, my family and my community. Now, with the privilege to serve the people of Texas, I can still hear my mother’s voice reminding me to be
guided by those principles that she sewed in me all those years ago.  

I received lots of love, but with that love came rules, discipline, chores and the expectation that I would strive to help my family, my friends and my community. This weekend, honor your mother with more than just a gift; show your devotion by the way you live life, and apply the wisdom she has taught you over her lifetime. I pass along a very happy Mother’s Day to all of those women who go by the first name, Mom.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

El Paso is Committed to Water Conservation

In an ongoing effort toward solving Texas ‘critical water crisis, today I joined with El Paso Mayor John Cook and challenged  El Pasoans to step up their daily water conservation efforts by utilizing the Texas Water Smart program. This afternoon, Mayor Cook declared his support for continued conservation and announced that El Paso will join the Texas Water Smart coalition.

It’s important to remember, we cannot restrict and ration our way to growth. Citizen-led conservation efforts are our best alternative to mandated restrictions that can hurt our economy. Our recent historical drought and booming population point to an unavoidable conclusion; it’s time all Texans take a serious look at individual water use habits and find common-sense ways to conserve. With Texas Water Smart, a few drops saved, when multiplied by 26 million citizens, adds up to big savings.

Texas Water Smart, launched last spring, is a public-private partnership of nearly 300 businesses, associations, research organizations and state and local officials. Through a highly successful consumer education program, Texas Water Smart has raised awareness about water conservation by encouraging homeowners and businesses to adopt daily habits to curb wasteful water usage.

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor report shows El Paso continues to deal with severe drought conditions. As an arid city El Paso has experience in dealing with these conditions and the community has embraced conservation as a way of life for more than 20 years. By adopting conservation programs such as “Less is the New More,” the city of El Paso saved more than a half-billion gallons of water in 2012 than in 2011. Texas Water Smart, in partnership with El Paso’s existing water plan that utilizes conservation and the development of new water resources, will help serve residents growing water needs for years to come.

For helpful tips on water conservation, you can click on

Monday, April 22, 2013

Every Day is Earth Day for Hardworking Farmers and Ranchers

As the world celebrates Earth Day today, I thank the men and women who tirelessly cultivate 
Photo Pat Sullivan,
the land that provides the food and fiber for all the earth’s inhabitants. Farmers and ranchers, I honor you today and every day for the immeasurable contributions you have made and continue to make.

Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous, and they are tied to their country and wedded to its liberty and interests by the most lasting bands." 

That sentiment rings true today. Farmers and ranchers are the true cultivators of the earth and the original environmentalists. Our ancestors worked hard for us and we now work hard for the generations of today and tomorrow. We know that in order to achieve the same degree of lasting productivity and sustainability, this land we call home must always be protected.

Water conservation is one of the many ways to help preserve, and the Texas Water Smart coalition has great tips to help every Texan curb wasteful water usage.  Other ways to preserve include improving wildlife habitats and erosion protection so that there are beautiful lands left for the rest of us to enjoy along with our abundant, safe and affordable food supply.

On Earth Day and every day, be sure to thank our farmers and ranchers who preserve the environment, protect our food and improve our world. To learn more about what farmers and ranchers do for the environment, please visit: Agriculture is Your Culture.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Remembering West, Boston on San Jacinto Day

After a long week that tested us all, I am thankful to celebrate San Jacinto Day and the power of the American spirit.

This past week we as a nation came together to offer support and take action in the face of danger and tragedy. I think about the first-responders in West and Boston and how they put their own lives in peril to save the lives of others. In the aftermath, one thing is clear: Texans and Americans pull together and overcome.

On the eve of the battle of San Jacinto, as the Texas army chased Santa Anna’s troops, they still held onto the memories of their fallen patriots at The Alamo and Goliad. This San Jacinto Day, my hope is that we, as a nation and as a state, move forward, not in vengeance but resilience. Together we can help our fellow Americans and Texans heal from tragedy.

“Measured by its results, San Jacinto was one of the decisive battles of the world,” is inscribed on the base of the San Jacinto Monument that marks the place where Texas secured its freedom. The events of this past week will also be measured by results, by how we deal with adversity. Relying on fierce Texas grit and the unyielding American spirit, I am confident that we will overcome and continue to lead the way.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Prayers for West

Returning from Dallas last night on I-35, southbound traffic came to a complete standstill several miles north of Waco, something not too unusual and always dreaded. While stopped, we first noticed one, then two, then lost count of the numerous emergency vehicles hurrying along the service road and the shoulders of the road -- all headed south. At first, it appeared there must be a horrific traffic accident up ahead. Then, snippets coming across FOX News described the fertilizer plant explosion near Waco, which we now know occurred in the historic and often visited town of West, Texas.

After an hour and a half parked on I-35, the traffic began to move. As we approached West, you could immediately sense the enormity of what had occurred. The smell from the explosion was distinct in the air as we approached. Then, passing over the main crossroad
in town, emergency vehicles were lined up east and west as far as you could see. Massive smoke clouds lingered to the east of I-35. Search and rescue aircraft where overhead beaming down massive lights to aid those below. Even driving past West, for miles, you could see countless emergency vehicles headed north toward the scene.

The headline of the Wall Street Journal this morning reports the blast killed five to fifteen. Area hospitals are flooded with the injured seeking aid and the damage, not yet fully assessed, is extreme.

It appears, several of those killed were emergency personnel, they bravely rushed into danger to save lives, but these heroes were struck down when the initial fire erupted into a terrible explosion. Remember this small community in your prayers today, and the emergency responders who raced to their rescue.   

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Water Managers Say Mexico Water Release A "Joke"


SOUTH TEXAS - Mexico has agreed to release a small amount of water into the Rio Grande River for U.S. consumption. U.S. officials have been calling on our neighbor to the south due to the worsening drought situation.

Officials from the U.S. side of the border agree that the water from Mexico will do little to ease worries here in the Valley.

Water coming from a reservoir on Mexico's San Rodrigo River entered the Rio Grande ear El Moral. The exact amount of water released is unknown.

Irrigation District Number 9's manager Jo Jo White calls the gesture a joke and an insult; White adds it is not even a drop in the bucket.

Delta Irrigation District Manager Troy Allen worries farmers and cities will get the wrong idea. Allen says, "My fear is with this article is that the farmers and the municipalities are going to think that our problems are solved and they're not. This really didn't solve anything. To me it just made things worse."

A spokesperson with the International Boundary and Water Commission calls the release from Mexico "small."

In a letter sent to valley congressmen yesterday the I.B.W.C. says the have made several proposals to Mexico for immediate water deliveries to the U.S.

They say the response from Mexico has been slower than expected.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Save Water, Save Money, Save Texas

In an ongoing effort toward to solve Texas ‘critical water crisis, I along with State Sen. Troy Fraser announced the passage of Senate Resolution 593 honoring the statewide impact and success of the Texas Water Smart coalition. 

All Texans should take a serious look at their individual water habits. We all can make a difference in our water supply by adopting common-sense ways to conserve. I want to thank the nearly 130 legislators and 150 other Texas Water Smart coalition members who have committed themselves to educating Texans about the critical need for water. 

Texas Water Smart, launched April 2, 2012, is a public-private partnership of nearly 300 businesses, associations, research organizations and state and local officials. Through a highly successful consumer education program, Texas Water Smart has raised awareness about water conservation by encouraging homeowners and businesses to adopt daily habits to curb wasteful water usage.  

Sen. Fraser filed the Senate resolution in recognition of Texas Water Smart’s efforts to raise consumer awareness about water conservation and the coalition’s commitment toward relieving the state’s water crisis. State Rep. Allan Ritter filed a companion resolution in the State House of Representatives. 

On Friday, State Sen. Craig Estes and Wichita Falls Mayor Glenn Barham announced the city of Wichita Falls has joined the Texas Water Smart coalition and are urging residents to conserve water. If current water levels do not improve, Wichita Falls could be forced to enact Stage 4 water restrictions as early as this summer.

The Lone Star State continues to attempt recovery from the historic 2011 drought, which depleted drinking water supplies, hurt businesses and cost the state $8.3 billion in agricultural losses. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, more than 88 percent of the state is experiencing some degree of drought conditions.

Full text of the Texas Senate Resolution 593 honoring the Texas Water Smart coalition will be available at 

For more information about Texas Water Smart and daily water saving tips for homeowners and businesses, visit

Friday, April 5, 2013

Texas has hogs, Hawaii has frogs

Most Texans are all too familiar with the tremendous damage caused by feral hogs. If you have not had your pasture, yard, neighborhood golf course or favorite park spot damaged yet, just wait. Many Texans have likely seen the aftermath of an unsuspecting meeting between a feral hog and an automobile on the side of a state highway.

The invasion of unwanted pests is also occurring in another state, but there it is frogs, not
hogs. That's right, Hawaii is suffering so much from these unwanted amphibians called the coqui frog that the Hawaii Department of Agriculture has a staff member now referred to as the "frog whisperer." According to a Wall Street Journal article, these frogs cause so much noise they have become a damaging menace to both homeowners and tourists alike. Some compare the sound of the frogs’ chirps to lawn mowers, leaf blowers and even jet engines. I listened to a clip of the frogs on YouTube and while I wouldn't compare the pests to these objects, there is no way I could sleep with the chirping going on.

Especially alarming is how the coqui arrived in Hawaii. Indigenous to Puerto Rico, the frogs made their way across the Pacific Ocean as stowaways on cargo ships. Intrepid pests such as these is why the Texas Department of Agriculture utilizes partnerships with USDA inspectors at sea ports and our own TDA road side inspectors, to detect and deter the entry.

Citrus growers in the Valley constantly struggle to eliminate the Asian citrus psyllid and prevent the spread of citrus greening, and cotton farmers in all regions of Texas continue to battle the boll weevil in an effort that is finally paying off as farmers are closing in on getting the pest under manageable conditions. These programs are tremendously costly.  Wind and storms are unavoidable mechanisms to circulate unwanted agricultural pests, human mistakes must be avoided. 

While it is funny to learn about a Hawaiian "frog whisperer," the unwanted damage invasive pests cause is no laughing matter. I want us in Texas to remain vigilant to stop pests before they arrive so we can save our money or spend it on important causes such as getting our transportation system up to speed. It’s hard enough to get the hog out of Texas, let us not have to also battle pesky frogs of unwanted pests and diseases that cause havoc on our state's agricultural economy. Like our feral hogs, the coqui frog population has exploded over the last several years.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Mexican Cartels Declared As Most Significant Threat to Texas

A new state intelligence report released by the Texas Department of Public Safety has identified Mexican cartels as the most significant organized crime threat to Texas. According to the report, six of the eight Mexican cartels currently have command and control networks operating within Texas borders.

This report provides mounting evidence of a dangerous, insecure border. It confirms the stories of intimidation, trespassing and fear I have heard from landowners and law
enforcement personnel all across the state. While Washington continues to deny these simple facts by making irresponsible claims like “borderis better now than it ever has been” and “theborder is safe”, Texans are left in the crosshairs of violent Mexican drug cartels.

Luckily we have leaders here in our great state, such as DPS Director Steven McCraw and Public Safety Commission Chair Cindy Leon who know, first-hand the reality of the daily threats to Texans, our economy and our way of life. I hope members of the current administration in Washington read this report and take action to provide Texas with the resources to protect our citizens living in harm’s way.

Keep in mind, this DPS report was developed prior to the announced cut-back actions along the border the administration is taking in regard to the 'sequester.'  There is no room for less
federal law enforcement assistance from Washington here in the Lone Star State, we need them to step up to a satisfactory level. As of today, no rebuttal or denial of the fact that California, Arizona and New Mexico has over 14 border agents per border mile and Texas has barely over 6. This inequity is leading to larger volumes of traffic right across Texas landowners’ private property.