October 27, 2006

Great story on the Ag Commissioner's race

Yet again, Hank continues to make Flip-Flop Todd his bitch. Oh, and again... Hello Staples Staffers and welcome to McBlogger! Sorry you have to work for such a douche.

Some highlights...

Q: Are you for or against the Trans-Texas Corridor, and why?

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingGilbert: One of the main issues that started this race for me was the Trans-Texas Corridor. I have been studying it for a couple of years. I am definitely against the corridor. It will eventually take over 1 million acres of prime agricultural land in Texas and turn it over to a Spanish company. This company will construct over 4,000 miles of toll roads and rail, dissecting Texas into fragments. It will destroy rural Texas as we know it, and displace hundreds of thousands of Texans from their farms and homes. It will go down as the largest eminent domain project in the history of the United States if it allowed to continue. I pledge to the people of Texas to do everything in my power to stop this huge Texas land grab.

My opponent helped to create most of the legislation concerning the Trans-Texas Corridor, and in the last session, authored SB2702 that will allow TxDOT to toll existing roadways. Clearly, he cares little for private property rights. He has also authored legislation giving the state the right to move water from one part of the state to wherever they deem necessary. Inside the corridors will be large water transmission lines capable of transporting water throughout and outside of Texas. With Mexico needing water for irrigation (NAFTA) and the U.S. always needing oil, is there much question where our water may be going? This is politics that goes directly against Texas agriculture, and I plan to put a stop to it.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingStaples: I am not a proponent of the TTC in its current form. As Ag Commissioner, I will fight for needed changes to ensure private property owners’ rights are a priority in Texas; and I am honored to be endorsed by champions of private property owner rights such as the Texas Farm Bureau and Texas Cattle Raisers. I will work to find rural and urban solutions to our state’s mobility crisis which are respectful of property rights.

Gee, Flip-Flop... you liked it so much you voted for it every time it came up. Yet now, you claim not to be a proponent of it when it's obvious that people hate it. So which is it? If you had problems with it, why'd you support it? Flip-Flop, Flip-Flop. Hank say's you're just pandering. I'm inclined to agree.

I'm posting the rest of the article in the supersize... it's well worth the read.

Ag commissioner candidates share ideas on key issues
From staff Reports

Republican candidate Todd Staples

Democratic candidate Hank Gilbert

OCT. 26, 2006 – The 2006 General Election ballot in Texas will host a great list of candidates for jobs ranging from governor to county judges. One section on the ballot, of keen interest to Texas agricultural producers, is the one for Commissioner of Agriculture.

The elected commissioner will, for four years, lead the Texas Department of Agriculture, a state agency established by the Texas Legislature in 1907. TDA enforces all agricultural laws in the state, such as animal quarantine, food inspection, disease and pest control (including pesticide safety), and promoting exports, according to the Texas Politics website. The agency also oversees many programs, in divisions of communications (such as the Hay Hotline), governmental affairs (such as Livestock Assistance Grant Program), marketing and promotion (such as GO TEXAN), food and nutrition (including school breakfast program), pesticide (applicator licenses), regulatory (ranging from organic producer to seed labs to rose grader), and rural economic development (such as the biofuel incentive program).

The newly-elected commissioner will take office Jan. 1, 2007, and will replace Susan Combs, who served as Texas Commissioner of Agriculture for the maximum two terms.

Three candidates for Commissioner of Agriculture are on the 2006 General Election ballot:

• Democratic candidate Hank Gilbert, a 47-year-old self-employed rancher and former high school agriculture teacher, from Whitehouse;

• Independent candidate Clay Woolam, a 21-year-old student from Richardson; and

• Republican candidate Todd Staples, a 43-year-old small businessman and rancher from Palestine. Staples is also currently a state senator in District 3.

(More information about each candidate can be found on their website, or from their party’s website.)

In an effort to provide Country World readers with a little window into the ag candidates’ ideas on some key issues, Country World provided a short questionnaire to each, and two responded. Following are the questions, and the responses from Hank Gilbert and Todd Staples.

Q: Are you for or against the Trans-Texas Corridor, and why?

Gilbert: One of the main issues that started this race for me was the Trans-Texas Corridor. I have been studying it for a couple of years. I am definitely against the corridor. It will eventually take over 1 million acres of prime agricultural land in Texas and turn it over to a Spanish company. This company will construct over 4,000 miles of toll roads and rail, dissecting Texas into fragments. It will destroy rural Texas as we know it, and displace hundreds of thousands of Texans from their farms and homes. It will go down as the largest eminent domain project in the history of the United States if it allowed to continue. I pledge to the people of Texas to do everything in my power to stop this huge Texas land grab.

My opponent helped to create most of the legislation concerning the Trans-Texas Corridor, and in the last session, authored SB2702 that will allow TxDOT to toll existing roadways. Clearly, he cares little for private property rights. He has also authored legislation giving the state the right to move water from one part of the state to wherever they deem necessary. Inside the corridors will be large water transmission lines capable of transporting water throughout and outside of Texas. With Mexico needing water for irrigation (NAFTA) and the U.S. always needing oil, is there much question where our water may be going? This is politics that goes directly against Texas agriculture, and I plan to put a stop to it.

Staples: I am not a proponent of the TTC in its current form. As Ag Commissioner, I will fight for needed changes to ensure private property owners’ rights are a priority in Texas; and I am honored to be endorsed by champions of private property owner rights such as the Texas Farm Bureau and Texas Cattle Raisers. I will work to find rural and urban solutions to our state’s mobility crisis which are respectful of property rights.

Below are statements from the Farm Bureau and Cattle Raisers on this issue:

“When we brought our concerns about the TTC to Sen. Todd Staples, he not only listened, he went to work and spearheaded legislation to protect private property owners’ rights. That is why the Texas Farm Bureau AGFUND asked him to run for Commissioner of Agriculture. He fought for land owners in the senate and he will fight for us all as Commissioner of Agriculture.” - Kenneth Dierschke, president of AGFUND and Texas Farm Bureau

“In the Texas Senate, ranchers and landowners needed a trusted friend to carry legislation to protect their interests regarding the TTC. We found that champion in Sen. Todd Staples. He listened to our concerns and acted quickly to tackle many of the concerns of private property owners. Todd Staples is needed as Commissioner of Agriculture to carry on the fight.” - C.R. “Dick” Sherron, M.D., president, Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association

Q: The draft State Water Plan will be presented to the Texas Water Development Board in November for approval. What do you see as the biggest challenge(s) regarding ensuring an adequate water supply for all Texans in the next 50 years?

Gilbert: The biggest challenge apparently is enforcing water conservation policies that we have on the books. Every day we have large water users that do not conform to our laws, yet nobody is holding them accountable. Manufacturers, industry, oil companies are using large amounts of water each day, then pumping the contaminated water back into the ground and/or releasing it untreated into our rivers and streams. This not only wastes valuable water, but it contaminates future water supplies. In the midst of the driest year on record, we cannot allow private estate owners to use 3 or 4 million gallons of water per month to water their lawns. This type of behavior is irresponsible.

We have to look at other alternatives. Desalination plants need to be constructed along our coastline to convert brackish waters of the Gulf into potable water. We need to look into creative ways of capturing overhead waters without damaging our lakes and rivers. All of these projects are doable and economical. The only way they can be accomplished, however, is to remove some politicians and the political barriers. In these desperate times, common sense and creative thinking are in greater need than politics and political posturing.

Staples: Texas is a big state, big enough to develop win-win solutions to our water challenges without pitting one region of Texas against another. As our population doubles, we must develop new water resources through conservation, desalination of brackish groundwater, and other ecologically sound measures.

Without an ample supply, agriculture producers will not be able to lead the nation in many areas of production and our consumers will not have an available and affordable food supply.

Our state must continue to invest in hydrological research and consider a low-cost revolving loan fund to assist communities with anticipated infrastructure costs.

Texas must also continue the regional water planning group process to ensure local water leaders spearhead the water planning effort that has been tremendously successful.

Q: What are your thoughts on the issues of illegal immigration and the guest worker program in regards to how it affects farmers and ag-related businesses in need of workers?

Gilbert: First and foremost, people in this country without proper documentation are here illegally, and should be returned home. The laws of our country govern that. Furthermore, employers that are working these people illegally should also be dealt with in accordance to our laws. One cannot happen fairly without the other.

Having said that, nationally, 45 percent of all farm labor is migrant labor. In Texas, that number is closer to 65 percent. If all of these people are sent home, the hardest hit industry in this country will be agriculture. Can we survive … I don’t know. The Hispanic population accounts for about 11 to 12 million of the projected 35 million illegal immigrants in our country. There are a lot more to send home to other countries if we chose to send them all home. Can we physically do this? Personally, I don’t think so. We can’t seem to find one man hiding in a country a lot smaller than ours, so how can we expect to find 35 million people in ours.

Staples: We need a zero tolerance policy to illegal immigration and a secure the border first approach. Our country must develop a LEGAL process of immigration and an agricultural guest worker program which has the necessary checks and balances to ensure that immigration policy has clear requirements, guidelines and penalties. Today’s confusing and convoluted system encourages illegal immigration and this must be stopped at our borders and in our policies. I believe we must secure our borders and end illegal immigration, and oppose amnesty.

Q: Some Texans are voluntarily registering their premises within the state’s portion of the National Animal Identification System, but not all livestock and poultry owners are on-board with the plan. Would you encourage Texans to participate in NAIS? If yes, why; and if no, why?

Gilbert: Not only would I not recommend Texans to participate in the NAIS, when elected, I plan to file an injunction in federal court excluding Texas from participating in the NAIS as it currently exists. This plan was flawed from the beginning. When the “Big 3” meat packers sponsor the federal legislation, that should tell you something. By eventually making this program mandatory, it will force small beef cattle producers out of business, therefore giving the large meat packers complete control of the live cattle industry.

Texas is the largest beef-producing state in the country, with 70 percent of that beef being produced by individuals owning less than 50 head of cows. With the economic restraints placed upon these producers to implement this program, it will put many of them out of business. The local auction barns around the state don’t want it either.

The trace-back mechanism in this program is no better than what we have with the current brucellosis program or the “brand law” already in place. Everything goes back to producer’s records.

I am in favor of voluntary programs that will benefit our producers economically, and intend to create some of those types of programs after elected for various phases of the agricultural industry. Mandatory programs never benefit anyone except the last link of the chain, not the producer. The current agriculture commissioner and my opponent support this legislation. Once again, politics over common sense, and the losers are the rest of us.

Staples: I oppose mandatory NAIS, and instead support a true voluntary program that allows for rapid trace back for animal diseases to ensure we maintain an open market for Texas animal products here and abroad. I also support strict inspection at our processing facilities. Texas must take a cooperative approach among producers to develop a reasonable program to ensure we have safe, reliable and disease free products.

Q: What positive attributes will you bring to the office of Texas Agriculture Commissioner that your opponents cannot?

Gilbert: I bring practical and real-life experience in the field of agriculture. I have been involved in agriculture my entire life. Besides growing up in a cattle operation, I taught it in high school for 13 years, owned a livestock auction barn for several years, and continue to raise cattle with my wife and two sons.

I’m not a politician, but I know how to get things done. I bring common sense and practicality to this office, not politics. I plan to involve everyday agriculturalists in the planning of our state’s agriculture industry. I plan to form committees made up of individuals who making their living in that industry, to identify the problems within that industry, and to set goals for improvement. This country, and the world, depend upon Texas for abundant, safe food products. It will be my job to make sure that we can continue to live up to that commitment. Political obstacles like the Trans-Texas Corridor and the NAIS make that job very difficult, if not virtually impossible, to achieve. I will make it my goal to eliminate these obstacles, and to return Texas to the ranking of the No. 1 agriculture state in the nation.

Staples: I have a lifelong agricultural involvement operating a family cow/calf operation, serving as a former state vice president of Future Farmers of America, and earning an Agricultural Economics degree from Texas A&M. I have also endorsed by every major agricultural organization in Texas including Texas Farm Bureau, Texas Forestry Association, Texas Poultry Federation, and the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers. My public service career also includes service on my local city council, as a State Representative and I am currently serving as a State Senator.

I have also authored and been a key legislative leader in the Texas Legislature on property owner rights, agricultural issues, reforming our failed workers’ compensation system, providing sound water policy, strengthening our criminal justice system and ensuring every child in Texas has access to a quality education.

Most importantly, I am a person like yourself. My wife, Janet, and I have four children and are active in our church and with community service. Also, my father is still active on our family cow/calf operation. As I have done in the state legislature, I will approach every issue as Texas Commissioner of Agriculture with one question: “How will it affect our families?”

Posted by mcblogger at October 27, 2006 02:04 PM

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