Texas Senators criticize the Trans-Texas Corridor
ARLINGTON — Texas Farm Bureau president Kenneth Dierschke set the stage for a challenging session of the Texas Legislature in his annual address to TFB convention delegates here Sunday.
At the 73rd annual Texas Farm Bureau Convention, Dierschke said Texas agriculture has been through a difficult decade due to a series of weather-related disasters.
Now, with the 80th session of the Legislature only a month away, the organization wants to solve some troublesome issues, some old and some new.
At the top of Dierschke’s list is the issue of eminent domain.
“Those of us who make a living from the land consider eminent domain, at best, a necessary evil,” said Dierschke. Referencing the Supreme Court landmark eminent domain case of Kelo v City of New London, Dierschke listed the steps Farm Bureau is taking to ensure that the decision made in New Jersey cannot happen in Texas.
A constitutional amendment, payment of legal fees for landowners, relocation costs and royalties were some of Dierschke’s suggestions on how to better improve Texas’ eminent domain laws. According to Dierschke, these steps, such as a constitutional amendment, would “make absolutely certain that not one square inch of Texas land is ever taken away from the owners just because some taxing authority thinks a shopping mall or subdivision would produce more tax revenue.”
In a Congress now controlled by Democrats, Dierschke said the Farm Bureau will be pushing hard for extension of the current 2002 Farm Bill until the World Trade Organization “can produce some tangible results.”
“The WTO negotiations thus far have been, frankly, very disappointing,” said Dierschke. However, he noted that “we commend U.S. trade negotiators for holding fast and understanding that no agreement at all is better than a bad one.”
Also, Dierschke spoke about Farm Bureau’s “unique position” as a non-partisan organization.
“We are fed up with partisan bickering — the reluctance to support good legislation for fear the other party will get credit is crippling the nation,” he said. “This must stop for the good of our country. It’s time to lead or get out of the way.”
Dierschke also addressed the recent drouth that continues to affect farmers and ranchers across the state.
“The passage of a federal drouth assistance package is a top priority for Texas Farm Bureau. The drouth is a special set of conditions that deserves special attention —it is agriculture’s Katrina,” he said.
Dierschke encouraged members to continue to persevere through the challenging times that are approaching with the beginning of the 80th session of the Texas Legislature. “The spirit of Texas is our greatest resource,” he said.
Dierschke reminded members of the purpose of Farm Bureau: “to represent the interests of farmers and ranchers, to be in the places they cannot be, where the decisions are made that affect their lives.
“It’s time for an era of prosperity, for rejuvenation in rural Texas,” he said.
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, told members that issues such as the nation’s defense in its global war on terror, shoring up what the senator called a “failed immigration policy,” and writing a new farm bill that still provides support for American farmers and ranchers will be among the items Congress must pick up again as the new leadership takes over in January.
But forging ahead on renewable energy fronts, limiting government’s ability to condemn private property and helping Texas solve its transportation concerns will also be issues that must be addressed by Congress, the former Texas Attorney General said.
Cornyn drew applause when he spoke out against eminent domain and what’s become a close cousin to the issue in the form of the Trans-Texas Corridor.
”If you’re from Texas, private property rights are by definition a top priority,” Cornyn said.
The now infamous Kelo case, which granted government entities the right to seize private lands in the name of economic development, needs to be reversed, Cornyn said. In fact, when the case was first filed on a Thursday, Cornyn said he had filed legislation to reverse the court decision just four days later.
Cornyn also spoke against the TTC, which under current plans will claim hundreds of acres of some of the state’s finest farmland.
“I plan to advocate looking into existing arteries to solve the transportation needs of a growing Texas,” Cornyn said. “We all know that something will have to be done to solve our transportation issues as we face tomorrow, but I am certain we can come up with a plan that is a lot more respectful to the farmers and ranchers of this state.”
One of the biggest challenges that lie ahead comes in the leadership changes that now face Washington lawmakers, Cornyn said.
“We will have to use what leverage we have to shape legislation that is in the best interests of the American people,” the senator said. “And I stand committed to working with my friends in Washington on both sides of the aisle.
“It is such an honor to come before groups like yours —people who earn their living from hard work who deserve to be treated fairly by their government,” Cornyn said. “It is an honor and privilege to represent the best state in the strongest nation the world has ever known.”
Ensuring disaster aid legislation and securing energy policies will take priority in coming weeks on Capitol Hill, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison told the 1225 Texas Farm Bureau members.
Pointing to disasters such as Hurricane Rita, the Panhandle wildfires and statewide drouth, Hutchison pledged to keep fighting for the people of Texas. She has already introduced legislation to provide more than $1 billion in aid for producers affected by wildfires, but action on additional aid may have to wait until the new year as Congress wraps its final week in Washington.
“If we are not successful in getting needed disaster relief now, we will get it next year,” Hutchison said.
In addition to securing aid for current disasters, Hutchison also pledged to establish a reserve fund in Congress to better speed needed assistance in future disasters.
Regarding energy policy, Hutchison said more attention will have to be focused on making the United States independent from foreign oil. More than 60 percent of the nation’s natural energy resources currently comes from outside U.S. borders.
“It’s a matter of national security,” she said. “And with ethanol and biodiesel developments, Texas farmers stand a real opportunity to supply our energy needs and lower the price of those to everyone.”
In other issues, Hutchison criticized the Trans-Texas Corridor, urging state officeholders to seek out other options that are more landowner-friendly. She voiced support for extending the current farm bill, and urged colleagues in Washington to move forward with needed immigration reforms, including guest worker programs.
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