The Texas Legislature has an opportunity this session to help the state's agricultural industry by correcting two mistakes dealing with transportation.
The first, and perhaps the most far-reaching, is the Trans-Texas Corridor, a pet project of Governor Rick Perry that includes several problems for Texas landowners and numerous rural communities.
The corridor, when and if it is ever completed, would consist of a multiple-use transportation/utilities passage through the heart of the state, running from the Oklahoma border near Wichita Falls through the Lower Rio Grande Valley and into Mexico. Eventually, the corridor would link Mexico, the United States, and Canada.
Separate lanes for trucks and passenger cars would co-exist with a rail line, communication cables, and possibly gas and water lines. Long-term plans call for routes running both north and south and east and west, linking major Texas cities.
At first glance, it might seem like a good idea, but the designated route the corridor would follow takes it away from existing interstate highways and through rural Texas and some of the most productive agricultural land in the state.
As a toll road, access would be limited, and in some cases would pose serious hardships on farmers and ranchers trying to move livestock and equipment from one side of the highway to the other. The proposed corridor route would split some farms and ranches.
Access to small towns and rural communities also could be restricted, leaving already economically-depressed areas even less viable.
The state would use the right of imminent domain to obtain land rights, depriving landowners of reasonable value for lost acreage and lost productivity.
The Texas Farm Bureau opposes the corridor, as do several grass roots organizations.
A Spanish firm would build the system and manage tolls.
It's a bad idea that should be scrapped or seriously rethought.
Another bureaucratic boondoggle comes from the Texas Drivers License Department, which initiated a requirement last fall that prevents foreign workers from obtaining a commercial drivers license if they plan to be in the state less than a year. Applicants also must have at least six months remaining on a visa before they qualify.
The restriction limits the value of the H-2A worker program that legally brings in needed laborers for seasonal work. Many, if they are 23 years old and qualify in other areas, need CDLs to drive grain trucks, tractors, and combines. Custom harvesters and cotton gins are among the agricultural industries affected by the restriction.
The Texas legislature is considering at least two bills that would amend the drivers license requirement to give H-2A workers an opportunity to obtain CDLs. They should pass them.
Agriculture is much too important to the state's economy for these, or any other regulations that devalue farm worth or prevent legal means of acquiring necessary labor, to stand.
We encourage the legislature to act decisively to reverse these policies.