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Big Thicket Messenger - Local News
Stories Added - August 2009
Copyright 2008 - Polk County Publishing Company

Commissioner Staples announces $2 million for non-profit organizations
Big Thicket Messenger - August 2009

Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples today announced $2 million in grants is available for non-profit organizations to purchase excess produce resulting from overproduction. The funds are available through the Texas Department of Agriculture’s Texans Feeding Texans: Surplus Agricultural Products Grant Program, which awards non-profit organizations funds to purchase and donate agricultural products to food banks or any charitable organization that feeds hungry Texans.
“Many Texas families are challenged right now, and they’ve turned  to local food banks for support,” Commissioner Staples said. “This grant program will assist our state’s food banks in offering families a helping hand through these tough times.”
Organizations interested in the Texans Feeding Texans: Surplus Agricultural Products Grant Program can submit proposals for up to $1 million per year if they have been assisting charitable organizations for at least five years. Last year, the Texas Food Bank Network was able to acquire and distribute 10.2 million pounds of food to Texas families, thanks to this program.
Applications must be submitted by August 17. For more information about the program or to apply for the grants, contact Mindy Fryer at (512) 463-6908 or grants@TexasAgriculture .gov.
More on Hunger in Texas
Nearly one in five Texas adults and one in four children are food insecure (source: Capital Area Food Bank of Texas)
Texas has the third highest rate of food insecurity in the country. (Source: USDA and Food Research and Action Center).
From 2005 to 2007, 14.8% of Texas households, or 1.2 million people, did not have access to enough food to fully meet basic needs at all times, during this same time period, 23% of Texas children were also food insecure. (source: Feeding America).

Economic Development Grants available
Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples is pleased to announce the Texas Department of Agriculture is accepting applications for the Texas Capital Fund, a program that provides more than $10 million in competitive awards each year to cities for infrastructure improvements,  real estate acquisition and other enhancements that will recruit businesses and create jobs.
“The Texas Capital Fund assists in bringing jobs to communities and boosts economic development for a region,” Commissioner Staples said. “These grants are a good investment in rural Texas, and I urge city leaders across the state to take advantage of this important opportunity.”
The Texas Capital Fund provides funding for economic development projects such as establishing and expanding businesses that create jobs in rural Texas. These funds are awarded under four different programs: Infrastructure Development, Real Estate Development, Main Street Improvements and Downtown Revitalization, Infrastructure Development awards may be used for projects that include water and sewer lines, road improvements, fiber optic lines and railroad spurs. Real Estate Development awards may be used to acquire, construct or rehabilitate buildings. Main Street Improvements and Downtown Revitalization programs provide grants to non-entitlement cities for the purpose of renovating or constructing sidewalks, lighting, drainage and other infrastructure elements in downtown areas.
Normally, the maximum award is $750,000, but the program also funds two $1 million “jumbo” awards each year. The higher dollar amount is available for larger projects that create more jobs.
Applications for the Texas Capital Fund program will be accepted through September 1, 2009. For program details and eligibility requirements, visit TDA’s web site at www.TexasAgriculture.gov. and search Texas Capital Fund, or call the toll-free Rural Assistance line at (877) 428-7848.

New Wildlife Initiative
GO TEXAN brand adds state’s abundance of outdoor activities to its promotion of Texas culture
Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples is pleased to announce the newly established GO TEXAN Wildlife Initiative, which targets businesses and organizations that focus on wildlife recreation, is now accepting memberships.
“We’re excited about this opportunity to promote businesses and organizations that are based around Texas’ diverse and extensive wildlife resources,” Commissioner Staples said. “There is nothing more Texan than enjoying the great outdoors. It just makes good sense to combine our award-winning marketing campaign with what makes our state special – our impressive wildlife activities. So, Go Hunt, Go Fish, GO TEXAN.
The new GO TEXAN Wildlife Initiative puts an emphasis on the culture of Texas, much of which is defined by two of the state’s greatest outdoor assets: hunting and fishing.
Established as a new category in the GO TEXAN marketing campaign, the Wildlife Initiative was created to promote Texas wildlife businesses and organizations. Eligible members include those involved in hunting, fishing, exotic animal farms, fisheries, and the organizations and associations devoted to these activities.
“This is an excellent idea to extend the GO TEXAN marketing program to our hunting, wildlife management and fishing activities in Texas,” Texas Wildlife Association President Tina Buford said. “Texas is a premier destination for private-public partnership to promote Texas outdoor opportunities is really unique. We appreciate Commissioner Staples for his vision and leadership in this arena.”
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, a sister state agency that in 2007 concluded that fish/wildlife related recreation has a $15.8 billion economic impact on the state, applauds the initiative.
“It is exciting to see the GO TEXAN Wildlife Initiative emphasizing two of our state’s greatest economic and recreational assets: hunting and fishing,” Carter Smith, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department executive director said. “Nature tourism activities connect people with wildlife and we support Texans who are engage in sustainable, wildlife-friendly enterprises that provide economic incentives to protect native wildlife and habitat.”
For a $25.00 fee, GO TEXAN membership includes:
Use of the GO TEXAN certification to tap into Texas loyalty
Listing on the GO TEXAN website, which is heavily marketed by TDA.
Opportunities to participate in GO TEXAN promotions.
Negotiated rates on advertising opportunities.
Receipt of GO TEXAS e-mail and print infoletters.
Listing of events on Web site and in print and online publications.
Opportunity to apply for GO TEXAS Partner-Program (GOTEPP) matching funds.
To join the GO TEXAN Wildlife Initiative, visit the web site at www.gotexan.org.

National Energy Tax Bill
On Friday, June 26, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Waxman-Markey national energy tax bill, and Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples responded to the vote.
“This legislation is bad for America, bad for consumers and bad for Texas farmers and ranchers,” Commissioner Staples said. “This bill is big government at its worst. The legislation is a massive energy tax that will cost our nation precious jobs during recessionary times and drive up energy costs for working families. I only hope the U.S. Senate does the right thing and votes this bill down before it delivers a staggering blow to our nation’s economy. Congratulations to the Texas delegation members who voted no and understand there are responsible methods to protect our environment without costing consumers, trillions of dollars over the next decade.”

Firefighters seek funds
Representatives of area Liberty County Volunteer Fire Departments met with members of Commissioner’s Court on Tuesday, June 23, 2009, to request that they received a fixed annual allocation of funds for services they provide instead of the current process of reimbursements each month per service call.
Dalton Gregory, President of the Liberty County Firefighters Association and Assistant Fire Chief of the Tarkington Volunteer Fire Department, and Bill Hergemueller of the Highway 321 VFD, come before the group and explained that the current process of paying the departments per run is very expensive for departments due to high fuel and maintenance costs of equipment.
Gregory stated, “People don’t understand the costs of fighting fires”. A new fire truck costs $250,000 plus the equipment.”
He continued saying, “certain calls, such as fatality accidents, may require 10 to 15 hours of their time while the department will only be paid a flat rate, no matter how much time they spend at the scene.”
Gregory asked the commissioners to consider paying the departments an annual amount of money based on the average expenses of the previous year. he explained that this type of payment system would allow each department to budget their resources a year in advance and make it easier to purchase equipment on a monthly basis.
As Gregory finished speaking, Liberty County Judge Phil Fitzgerald replied that he would be willing to support annual allocations if there were certain guidelines for the fire departments to adhere to.
Fitzgerald told Gregory that he should meet with other fire departments in the county to discuss the situation and other important information needed. Once the information is collected further discussion will take  place on this matter.

 



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