TDA- 2008 year in review
By Todd Staples
Texas Agriculture Commissioner
The spirit of Texans was tested in 2008 by an economic downturn and Hurricane Ike, but a silver lining framed the dark clouds and offers good news as we look ahead.
At the Texas Department of Agriculture, the challenges of the past 12 months resulted in action aimed at conquering adversity and strengthening our state, making it a better place than ever to raise a family, do business, work or retire.
From protecting our food and fuel supplies to promoting economic growth, healthy lifestyles and trade relations with our neighbors in Mexico and Cuba, TDA initiatives in 2008 empowered Texas citizens to enjoy a prosperous quality of life.
When faulty fuel pumps prompted unprecedented numbers of complaints from consumers last year, TDA launched Operation Spotlight to expose and penalize a non-compliant fuel retailer who shortchanged hard-working Texans. Fortunately, most fuel retailers are giving consumers what they pay for at the pump; however, statewide blitz inspections and audits by TDA send a strong message that those not providing consumers what they pay for will be held accountable. That same level of accountability will be expected and enforced in the new year as TDA continues to inspect fuel pumps and grocery scales, and implement roadside plant inspection stations. These agency tools are designed to safeguard consumers from deceptive business practices and the threats of pests, disease and bioterrorism.
TDA also continued efforts to help our school children battle the nationwide obesity epidemic. By vigorously emphasizing the 3 E's of Healthy Living--Education, Exercise and Eating right--TDA partnered with cafeteria staff, school administrators, health care professionals and parents to upgrade nutrition standards for Texas school lunches while continuing to stress the importance of proper eating habits and active lifestyles. These efforts not only promote life-long wellness by encouraging students and parents to make better eating choices, but also aim to lessen the burden on our nation's health care system.
We also enhanced the promotion of the products, cultures and communities that call Texas home through our new and improved GO TEXAN marketing program. With the launch of our inaugural GO TEXAN Restaurant Round-Up, we linked locally grown food products and participating restaurants in an effort to put more fresh Texas products on more Texas menus. A number of member restaurants also took the opportunity to donate to area food banks. The daylong event is a year-round reminder that when Texans shop area farmers markets and dine at GO TEXAN Restaurants, they are ensured the freshest, most nutritious ingredients while promoting local producers and economies, and decreasing fuel and shipping costs.
Our GO TEXAN Certified Retirement Community Program, which recognizes qualified Texas communities as desirable places for retirees to settle, also gained momentum. These retirees provide an economic boost to our local economies and help make Texas the second most desirable retirement location in the nation.
Similarly, The GO TEXAN Rural Community Program continued to provide resources and expertise to rural communities, businesses and organizations committed to the economic growth and strength of rural Texas. Rural tourism now has an economic impact of more than $3.6 billion.
When Hurricane Ike slammed into our state, the agricultural industry came together like never before. Through public and private partnerships the largest cattle drive in history saved 12,000 head of livestock from certain death. The partners are now working together to re-establish cropland, build fences and restore what disaster ripped away. We are Texans, and we will recover.
Tested as we were in 2008, I am proud to say Texans and TDA rallied as partners for progress and made great strides to protect and strengthen consumer confidence and the physical and economic well being of the Lone Star State.
Here's to our continued good health as we move forward in 2009.