Office of the Governor Rick Perry

Texas & Southwest Cattle Raisers Association

*Note - Gov. Perry frequently departs from prepared remarks.
Saturday, March 19, 2005  •  Speech

Thank you.  Bob McCan is doing a great job leading this organization...
...continuing a family tradition that dates back to the 1940’s.

It’s good to be back in Cow Town...
...and it’s always good to stand with friends and fellow Texans who share my farming and ranching background...
...and the commitment to keeping agriculture a cornerstone of our state’s economy.

It’s been a few years since I lived and worked on my family’s West Texas farm and ranch...
...but I’ve never forgotten the values I learned there:...
...hard work before leisure...
...family before self...
...and faith and freedom before all of those things. 

Those values are enduring...
...and I am proud that they are still the glue that holds together many rural communities across Texas today. 

Farming and ranching shaped me...
...and the values it taught continue to guide me. 

If you think about it, the values taught in rural communities have guided the course of world history for centuries. 

Today America might be known as Western England were it not for a group of country folk who traded pitchforks for rifles and established the freest nation on the face of the earth.

Thankfully our methods of persuasion are a little different today, but our purpose remains the same...
...and that is to ensure that every Texan has the opportunity to live the American dream.

In this session of the legislature, we are addressing something that is central to the American dream...
...the preeminent legislative challenge of this generation...
...and that is reforming public education and the way we pay for it.

At the halfway point of this session, I am encouraged by the progress we have made on education and tax reform.

While we still have a long way to go in devising a final plan that we can all agree on...
...the process is moving forward at a steady pace.


We are focusing on student achievement so more children are prepared for college...
...looking at improving compensation and creating new incentives to attract the best and brightest teachers...
...and bringing more transparency to school budgeting so parents know how much of their money makes it to the classroom...
...and how much is spent on administration.

When it comes to tax reform, I believe Texans deserve and demand a property tax cut that is significant in size...
...and that stands the test of time. 

That means we must not only lower school rates...
...we must stop skyrocketing appraisals from making a property tax cut temporary and meaningless.

We can fund our schools and other priorities without asking Texans to pay 10 percent more a year in property taxes. 

And I believe we can and should do it without placing a greater burden on Texas farmers and ranchers.


That’s why I support maintaining current agricultural property valuations for property tax purposes...
...as well as the current agriculture exemptions for sales taxes. 

And as we work to achieve the goal of substantially lowering property taxes...
...these are principles upon which I will firmly stand.

(pause)

While some legislative issues like comprehensive education reform arise every decade or so...
...there are others that are as predictable as the change of the seasons... like issues related to water rights.  And this session is no different.

I believe in local control of local water resources...
...and I believe a transaction needs not only a willing buyer...
...but a willing seller too.

And as I have consistently done over the past twenty years...
...I will continue to work with the legislature to find new ways to ensure that all Texans... 
...including Texas farmers and ranchers...
...have access to the fresh water they need...
...while respecting the rights of property owners.
Last week we got some great news on the water issue when Mexico agreed to transfer every drop of water owed to Texas under the terms of the 1944 Water Sharing Treaty.

Because of years of quiet, determined diplomacy, Mexico will completely eliminate their debt by September...
...and transfer enough water to raise U.S. reserves from 95 percent of storage to 103 percent.

Over the past several years I have had the opportunity to discuss the water treaty numerous times with President Fox and the governors of Mexican border states. 

And I am proud to have helped communicate the urgency of the issue to them...
...and helped these leaders along the path towards a long term resolution that gives Texas farmers and ranchers the water critical to their livelihoods.

In fact, in November of 2003 I first asked President Fox to consider using water from Mexican tributaries not covered by the treaty to meet water demands...
...so that we could conserve water in the Amistad and Falcon reservoirs and make more water available to transfer to Texas farmers and ranchers.

This proposal helped Mexico rethink its dept repayment options...
...and today has helped them meet their obligations.

Just as I advocated for fair dealing on the water issue, I will continue to advocate for fair dealing when it comes to trade with Mexico and all of our trading partners. 

Trade must be a two-way street...
...and that means roadblocks to trade should be minimized. 

I believe the current restrictions imposed by Mexico on foreign cattle are against the spirit of NAFTA...
...and I will continue to advocate for the lifting of this ban. 

In the same spirit, I join this organization in calling for the federal government to take stronger action to encourage Japan to reopen its borders to American beef. 

Japan’s restrictions have cost U.S. beef producers more than $3 billion since December 2003...
...despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that American herds are safe from disease. 

In fact, I am sending a letter to President Bush asking him to set a firm deadline for normalization of beef trade with Japan. 

And should Japan fail to comply with the deadline...
...I am asking the president to consider taking further steps that will encourage Japan to open their markets.

I will continue to do all I can to persuade government and business leaders in Japan to do the right thing.

Free trade is only possible when we have fair trade. 

I know that when there is a level playing field...
...Texas farmers and ranchers can complete with anyone in the world. 

Although many talk about a new frontier involving information technology...
...the old frontier of agriculture remains an important foundation of our economy in the 21st Century. 

In fact, farming and ranching is the second largest industry in Texas...
...employing one in five working Texans.

The impact made by Texas farmers and ranchers is astounding. 

Texas has more cattle than Pennsylvania has people. 

Texas farms and ranches occupy three times as much land as the entire state of Florida. 

And we continue to lead the nation in the production of cattle and calves...
...sheep and lambs...
...cotton and hay and many other products.

To better connect Texas to trade opportunities, I have proposed a new system of transportation called the Trans Texas Corridor.

The Trans Texas Corridor will give us a better, more reliable transportation system that will move commuters and cargo faster and more safely...
...and create greater economic opportunity in every corner of the state.

Last week, Texas signed a comprehensive development agreement with a private consortium to build segments of the Trans Texas Corridor stretching from Oklahoma to San Antonio...
...without any up-front cost to taxpayers for construction.

With my background in farming and ranching...
...I know the concerns that many will raise about the scope and size of this new transportation system. 

That’s why we have built in numerous safeguards and benefits available to private citizens who participate in Trans Texas Corridor projects...
...including participation payments that will give landowners the option of profiting for decades as many have done by partnering with oil and gas producers.

And the Trans Texas Corridor will require less overall land than traditional methods of expansion...
...because it combines roads, rail and pipelines into a single corridor.

When it comes to transportation, one thing is clear. 

We cannot wait for others to lead or innovate...
...we cannot be afraid to ask how we can do things better, even if it’s different that how we have always done them...
...and we cannot accept a future marred by gridlock and diminished economic opportunity.

At the same time, much is left to be decided... and the public will have a thorough opportunity to continue giving their input. 

Tomorrow the Chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission... Ric Williamson... will be here to talk more about the Trans Texas Corridor...
...and to answer your questions. 

Ric is a proud rural Texan, and he is working to address the concerns of farmers and ranchers as we move forward with this new vision for transportation. 

I encourage you all to take the time hear his presentation...
...ask the questions you may have...
...and take an active role in the process.

(pause)

Let me close by saying that I appreciate all you do to keep the Texas economy strong and to make sure that cattle raisers have a strong voice in Austin and Washington, D.C.

I respect your hard work because I know what your labor of love requires...
...and I know what your contributions mean for our rural communities...
...and our way of life. 

Texas cattle raisers feed the world...
...contribute billions to our economy...
...and continue the Texas tradition of hard work and sacrifice...
...values that must endure if our children are to prosper.

I look forward to once again rolling up my sleeves and working together with you in the coming months to make sure that Texas continues to be the top agricultural state in the nation.

Thank you, may God bless you, and may God bless Texas.

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