Amid growing concerns among Texans on important issues such as faulty fuel pumps, child obesity and plant pests and diseases, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples recently submitted a legislative appropriations request to fund new initiatives at the Texas Department of Agriculture. The new programs are designed to provide Texans with enhanced services under four main categories: agricultural biosecurity, consumer protection, economic development and healthy lifestyles.

Earlier this year, TDA worked with the Sunset Advisory Commission to identify areas within the agency that could be improved to better serve Texans. “I recognize Texans are calling for increased consumer protection and improved health and safety, and I am committed to ensuring these needs are met,” Commissioner Staples said. “Funding for new and improved initiatives in these areas will assist our agency in not only protecting consumers, but in fostering a sound Texas economy.”

The requested appropriations will fund the following program enhancements and initiatives:

• Agricultural Biosecurity – As road station inspections help safeguard Texas agriculture by providing the first line of defense against invading pests, TDA seeks funding for an increase in the number of road station and market blitz inspections, and to conduct better analysis and risk assessments to enhance quarantine enforcement.

• Consumer Protection – Escalating fuel costs have triggered a heightened sense of awareness among Texans who want to make sure they get the exact amount of fuel they pay for at the pump. This has led to an increase of more than double the number of consumer complaints TDA receives against retail fuel stations and has spurred a demand for more fuel pump inspections. The agency requests funds for the implementation of a three-tiered approach to regulation that includes routine inspections/audits using risk-assessed data; a more intense focus on consumer complaint-based inspections; and blitz operations based upon trend analysis.

• Economic Development – Job creation is vital to the survival and prosperity of a rural community. Just as important is the ability to satisfy an area’s workforce needs and intended economic impact. Utilizing state resources to focus specifically on rural economic development will provide a means for rural Texas communities to compete with neighboring states through new capital investment, workforce recruitment, education, training, rural entrepreneurship and rural internship programs.

• Healthy Lifestyles – With a child obesity crisis among us, there is a critical need for the creation and implementation of nutrition education programs in our schools and communities. The requested funding will provide grants to schools, day cares and after school care programs to assist them in incorporating nutrition education into other existing programs and provide rewards for best practices and good nutrition.

To view the LAR in its entirety or for brief summaries on each of these funding requests, please visit www.tda.state.tx.us.