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Staples credits agri-industry for contributions to economy
Houston County Courier

By Lynda Jones Managing Editor

Texas Commissioner of Agriculture Todd Staples emphasized the importance of volunteerism in the community and the importance of the agricultural industry to Houston County when he addressed the Grapeland Chamber of Commerce Thursday, Jan. 27. The Palestine native was the keynote speaker at the Grapeland Chamber of Commerce’s annual banquet where he received a standing ovation. The Texas agriculture industry industry generates over one billion dollars a year, Staples said, and tens of millions of dollars in Houston County. Acknowledging that cotton is not a Houston County product, Staples still was enthusiastic with his example of how agriculture impacts the Texas economy. He said, that cotton closed this week at a record high, signaling a positive sign in tough economic times. If nodding heads and applause are indicators, those who filled the Family Life Center at Grapeland’s First Baptist Church were in agreement with Staples’ assertions that ground water rights belong to the landowner and property owners deserve fair payment when an entity exercises imminent domain. Staples told the audience of one House bill that has been introduced which will clarify the property rights of landowners to their groundwater, and he told Rep. Chuck Hopson (also in the audience) that he hopes that bill will become law. Another House bill Staples hopes will become law addresses the issue of imminent domain. “The Constitution,” Staples said, “says if imminent domain is used, the landowner must be compensated-period-not compensated unless it costs too much.” Grapeland’s 2010 Peanut Queen Alex Stephenson spoke before Staples. She gave the free enterprise speech she presented in the Texas Farm Bureau competition. Staples said he was glad to hear young people in Grapeland talking about free enterprise. “It’s free enterprise that builds prosperity, not government,” Staples said. He also discussed the controversial Clean Air Act proposed by the EPA (Environmental ProBen tection Agency), saying it “doesn’t make sense” and “threatens our productivity”. In speaking about volunteerism, Staples said, “Good things can happen when good people care enough to make it happen.” “If you want something to happen, tell a Texan it can’t be done,” Staples said further. Staples acknowledged the bevy of Grapeland FFA students who served dinner at the banquet. He said Mike Rowe (star of the television program, “Dirty Jobs”) spoke to the national FFA and told those students that agriculture today is technologically as advanced as the Silicon Valley. Agriculture is why our She gave the free enterprise speech she presented in the Texas Farm Bureau competition. Staples said he was glad to hear young people in Grapeland talking about free enterprise. “It’s country is as powerful as it is, Staples said. President of the Grapeland Chamber of Commerce, Aaron Pennington, also spoke. “We stand behind our businesses to help our businesses grow,” he said of the chamber. “It’s a good time to have a business in Grapeland.” In addition to numerous volunteers, including Charlie Darsey who designed and maintains the chamber’s website, April Bridges who organized the banquet, and Kirby Spinks who prepared the steak dinner, Pennington recognized the chamber’s director, Cliff Coldiron, and “roving director” Delbert Walker, who “has lots of good ideas for Grapeland”. Brandon Bridges, director of the Grapeland Economic Development Corporation, presented the chamber’s coveted “Citizen of the Year” award to Ben Childress. Bridges introduced Childress as a Christian man who has operated multiple businesses and participated in a long list of organizations. Bridges said Childress’ goals are not personal, that he is always asking what he can do for others. The 2011 Board of Directors also was introduced. The evening ended with auction items going for as much as $575 and several folks winning door prizes


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