Wednesday, July 26, 2006

"Rural Texans can only stand so much before we have to stand up.”

Loss of valuable farm land discussed at Taylor hearing

July 26, 2006

by Clay Coppedge
Temple Daily Telegram
Copyright 2006

TAYLOR - Not far from where more than 150 mostly Czech-American families lost their farms on the Blackland Prairie to Granger Lake 30 years ago, a number of farmers and rural landowners stepped up to the microphone at Taylor High School on Tuesday night and asked that more Blackland dirt not be taken away for the sake of the Trans-Texas Corridor.

Hank Gilbert introduced himself as a farmer and cited the importance of agriculture to the state’s economy.

“The loss of 180,000 acres of farmland would have an economic impact in the billions of dollars, all to facilitate transportation,” he said.

“People in government don’t care about rural voters. I was born and raised in Texas, and I can tell you that rural Texans can only stand so much before we have to stand up.”

Chris Hammel, co-founder of the Blackland Coalition that opposes the corridor, said during the public comments portion of the meeting that construction of the corridor anywhere within its current 10-mile study area would push urban vehicle pollution into rural areas. He cited a study by the American Farmland Trust that names the Blackland Prairie as the fourth most threatened agricultural region in the country.

“The corridor would mean the loss of numerous Heritage Farms,” he said, alluding to a designation by the Texas Department of Agriculture that recognizes farms and ranches that have been in the same family for more than 100 years.

“We’re told that this will be built to alleviate traffic problems,” Jane Van Pragg of Bartlett said. “We don’t have a traffic problem in rural areas. We have it in the cities. Build it there.”

The comments were part of the public comment part of the Tier I environmental impact study for the Trans-Texas Corridor, which was proposed by Gov. Rick Perry in 2002 as a combined toll road and rail system that would move traffic through Texas faster and safer.

TTC-35 would be the first segment of a 600-mile, $184 billion system of transportation corridors criss-crossing the state. The corridors could be up 1,200-feet wide with six lanes for cars, separate lanes for trucks, along with rail lines, oil and gas pipelines and water and utility lines.

© 2006 Temple Daily Telegram: