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January 22, 2001     (512) 463-0300

Haywood Bill Seeks
Statewide Agriculture Policy

AUSTIN - Wichita Falls Sen. Tom Haywood on Monday, January 22, 2001, announced the filing of Senate Bill (SB) 331, which calls for a statewide agriculture policy.

"Agriculture has been a stalwart in our state's history, heritage and economy," Haywood said. "It has been a critical element in our economic, cultural and historical development as well as a vital component of a diversified state economy and a self-renewing natural resource.

"Our goal has been to formulate a statewide policy to ensure that it continues to be all those things to Texas and to our nation. This bill goes a long way in doing just that."

SB 331 is based on the findings of the Joint Agriculture Policy Committee, which was charged with developing a sound agricultural policy for Texas in the 21st century. The committee examined the condition of agriculture, the state's current programs in support of agriculture, and the role of the state in preserving the agriculture industry.

Haywood and State Rep. David Swinford of Amarillo co-chaired the committee, which met during the time between the 1999 and 2001 sessions of the Texas Legislature. Members of the committee included Senators Ken Armbrister (Victoria), Teel Bivins (Amarillo) and Steve Ogden (Bryan) and State Representatives Robby Cook (Eagle Lake), Jim McReynolds (Lufkin) and Bob Turner (Voss). Swinford has filed a companion bill, House Bill 499.

Lt. Governor Bill Ratliff voiced his support of SB 331, calling the measure "long overdue," and Texas Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs joined the bill authors in stressing the importance of agriculture to the Texas economy.

"Each and every Texan has a vital stake in agriculture, the state's second-largest industry which has an annual impact of $80 billion on the Texas economy," Combs said. "That is why this comprehensive agricultural policy is so important."

SB 331 addresses 16 specific areas of interest in the agriculture industry, ranging from water availability to state tax policy. The legislation also proposes improvements to rural economic and infrastructure development as well as research and education efforts.

"Texas agriculture has been in a fragile condition for some time," Haywood said. "Due to drought, floods, pests, crop losses, changing federal policies, lack of marketing and a general disconnection from urban centers, the ag industry is suffering."

In other action, several committees are scheduled to meet during the week, including the Finance, Jurisprudence, Natural Resources, State Affairs, Business and Commerce and Redistricting committees. The intensified committee schedule signals a quickening pace for the Texas Senate.

"I think you'll see the committees gear up now and we'll get some work done," Lt. Governor Ratliff said.

The Texas Senate is adjourned until 11 a.m. Tuesday, January 23, 2001.

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