Saturday, May 31, 2008

U.S. Senator Cornyn on Ethanol

U.S. Senator John Cornyn has graciously provided the guest posting below.

Hello Panhandle Poet readers…it’s a privilege to guest post here.

I wanted to touch base with you regarding an issue which is very pressing in the Panhandle, ethanol.

When first introduced to the marketplace, it was hoped that ethanol would help revitalize rural America, lower the price we pay at the pump and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

That’s a worthy goal, yet the government’s focus on ethanol has produced a problem. There have been unintended adverse consequences to our economy from the focus on ethanol production. Chiefly, since February of 2006 the combined price of corn, wheat and soybeans has increased more than 416 percent.

For this reason and many more, I co-sponsored legislation which was introduced recently to freeze the renewable fuel standard corn-based ethanol mandate at current 2008 levels.
In the panhandle, like other places, the effect of ethanol production has been mixed. While a few have benefitted from it, a great many others have suffered.

As more and more farmers grow corn for ethanol production, cattle feeding ration prices have shot sky high. Mandates, along with the high cost of fuel, are squeezing every bit of profit out of cattle feedlots today.

As consumers continue to see rising food and fuel prices, freezing the corn-based ethanol mandate will allow us to re-evaluate the consequences of using food for fuel and determine the best way forward. Texas will remain a leader as we work to diversify our nation’s energy supply to include alternative and renewable sources, but in the meantime Congress must exercise its oversight role to ensure there are no further unintended consequences. A freeze of the mandate will allow time for necessary assessments and reduce increasing grocery, grain and feed prices.

Last year, the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) provided the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the authority to waive the mandates, or adjust them as necessary to provide relief for consumers.

Last month, I joined Sen. Hutchison and others in sending a letter to EPA Administrator requesting an update on the pending rule-making process for the waiver of all or portions of the ethanol mandate passed by Congress in 2007. The letter also urged the EPA to consider the sharp rise in food prices as they review the mandate.

Freezing the mandate at its current level for one year is not a long term solution, but it is a good start towards finding one.

My heartfelt thanks go to the Senator for addressing this issue and for providing this post.

Also posted on:

Panhandle's Perspective
Common Sense Agriculture, Conservation and Energy

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Wind Blows

The wind blows

The air is filled
With the tiny grains
That should be held
By growing things

The wind blows
The sand moves
The tiny stalks with newborn leaves
Shrivel beneath the onslaught

Not the Dust Bowl
Just spring
In the southern reaches
Of the Great Plains.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Senator Cornyn Visits With Bloggers

Yesterday I had the privilege of participating in a conference call with U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX). It was an invitation only call issued to members of his blog roll.

I appreciate the Senator’s interest in keeping the members of his constituency informed through the new medium of bloggers. He closed his call by thanking bloggers for their role in sharing the news of what is happening in the world without the slanted agenda that is often behind the reporting of main-stream media.

The Senator opened the call with remarks about the Supplemental Troop Funding bill which passed the Senate by a 75-25 vote yesterday. He expressed his disappointment that the bill was saddled with an excessive number of non-defense related items that were added by members whose special interests overrode their concern for our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. They saw the sure passage of the measure as an easy means of adding pork-barrel items with little threat of veto due to the imminent need for the funding.

Also included on the bill was a modernization of the GI Bill-of-rights. He indicated that he believed such modernization was necessary and proper yet did not seem to be fully pleased with some of the provisions in the bill.

The Senator also remarked about the rising cost of gasoline and the impact that it was having on our lifestyles and our economy. It seems that the agenda of many of the Democrats in positions of power is overriding the common sense of developing our own resources in a sensible manner. While recognizing the need for conservation, we must develop domestic oil supplies from proven reserves as well as encourage the construction of additional domestic refining capacity. These items would help alleviate prices through a focus on the supply side of the equation. It will be necessary to expand our domestic supply to help offset the growing international demand from countries such as China whose economy is requiring energy at an increasing rate.

After his opening remarks, the Senator opened the call to questions from participants. The questions ranged from the vote to override the President’s veto of the Farm Bill (voted yes to override), to additional questions about energy (including the impact of the ethanol mandates) and gun-control.

On the question of ethanol, the Senator noted that the mandates were a perfect example of unintended consequences. He especially noted the negative impact to water and land demands and their impact on food prices through competing away acreage from the production of other crops. He also noted the negative impact to livestock and poultry producers through the escalating price of feed. He, along with several other Senators, has requested the EPA to adjust the mandates according to the provision in the original enabling legislation that allows them to do so.

He also noted that the ethanol mandates have caused many to behave illogically. He specifically cited a story released through Bloomberg on Wednesday, about the Postal Service driving ethanol powered vehicles that were 28% less efficient that similar gasoline powered vehicles. They were burning more fuel to travel the same distance.

I appreciate the Senator’s willingness to take the time to visit with the blogging community. I look forward to the next opportunity. If you are interested in joining the Senator Cornyn blogging community, contact

Also posted on Common Sense Agriculture, Conservation and Energy.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


Our attitude determines our response to what life hands us. In many ways, it drives our behavior.

Last week a good friend related to me the story of a two-day trip calling on various beef producers. The trip was designed to include a variety of operations as an educational venture for an executive in his company that had little knowledge of the beef industry. His story illustrates the difference in attitude of each of the producers and how they are responding to the currently trying times in the beef industry. (Disclaimer: Note that either no names are given, or they are changed to protect the innocent and not-so-innocent!)

The first stop on the tour was to an operation that consisted of a small pre-conditioning facility as well as a cow herd and some stocker cattle. This individual had experienced escalating feed costs and had been “burned” by a couple of his pre-conditioning customers. His view was that ethanol was killing the beef industry. To sum it up, he had a “woe is me, the sky is falling” attitude. All he could see was the downside created by escalating feed costs.

The second stop on the tour was to an operation that specialized in buying light weight calves and taking them through a stocker phase before selling them to someone else for finishing. This individual had tried numerous approaches to add value to his cattle but found that “it doesn’t matter what I do, someone else always gets ahead while I just try to survive.” His attitude was one of powerlessness in the face of market realities.

The third stop was to meet with a veterinarian. He felt that although we were currently in a “down” cycle, it would eventually pass. The focus of the conversation with him quickly turned to new technology. He wanted to know what was in development, when would it be available and whether they had considered looking at a list of other possibilities. His attitude was forward-looking and positive.

The fourth stop was to a large cattle feeding operation. The attitude there could be described as “it’s bad but it will be better and this is what we’re doing to make sure we are still in business when it does.” They had a “hunkered-down-in-the-bunker” mentality but saw an improving future. Their attitude was one of “dodging bullets” until it got better.

The fifth stop was to a small pre-conditioning and stocker operation. The owner had experienced a number of setbacks and recently taken a job in town to supplement his income from livestock. He was at the point of feeling “beat up” and not knowing what the future would hold. He realized that much of his predicament was due to decisions that he had made that cost him dearly. It will be a difficult road to recovery, but he was going to give it his best effort. His attitude was one of having been through a fight but not through fighting yet.

The sixth stop was to a small operation that primarily ran stocker cattle. He saw opportunity everywhere. To him, turmoil signaled opportunity. His attitude was one of innovation, forward-thinking and determination to exploit opportunity.

The seventh and final stop was to a large seed stock operation. They felt that things weren’t great right now but were preparing for the future. They were extremely knowledgeable of the global factors affecting their operation and had plans in place to adapt to every conceivable contingency. Their attitude was positive but cautious and designed for what they saw as an uncertain future.

All-in-all, the attitudes were more positive than would be expected given the difficulties the industry faces as it adjusts to the realities of a bio-fuel economy. The operations listed above will be profoundly affected by changes in the beef industry. Their individual attitudes will affect how well they do.

We become what we think – what our minds dwell upon. We react to our surroundings based on our attitude toward the things that we see, feel and experience. Some of the producers in the scenarios enumerated above will survive and thrive. Others will fail. Based on their attitudes, which ones do you think will be the survivors?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Small-town Texas

U.S. Senator John Cornyn writes about small-town Texas in the post linked below.

More than a Name

Monday, May 19, 2008

By: U.S. Sen. John Cornyn

When pioneers made their way to Texas generations ago, many helped establish towns. From Abbott to Zorn, these smaller communities safeguard the Texas ethic, the values that have made our state great.

If you exit the major highways, you can travel to places such as Cee Vee, Tarzan, Tigertown, Ropesville, Petrolia and Notrees. The way these towns were named often reflects the optimism and good-natured outlook of those who helped settle our vast state.

Even today, the real spirit of Texas can be found in smaller towns across our state. Texas names have...(complete article here).

Don't forget about Happy, Earth, Needmore, Dime Box, Mobeetie, Telegraph, and the hundreds of other anchors to generations of Texans that dot our great state.


Straight and narrow
The highway stretches before me.
Although I only see as far
As the light which shines before me
I know the way is straight
Because it has not varied
In its path.

Only a few travel this unwavering road.

I am vaguely aware
Of those who travel other ways
That are filled with darkness.
They zip hither and yon,
Racing toward their destination.
They seek but never find.
They seek in vain.

Storms assail my path but the light goes on before.

Along the way I meet others
Who seek escape from the darkness.
I show them the light that guides me.
Some see the light
And others do not.
I invite them to travel with me
Following the light.

We travel together as the light guides our way.

Psalm 119:105 - "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path."

Friday, May 9, 2008

Character and Persistence

Some days you get hammered
And it's hard to pick yourself up.
You are keyed up
Built up
Psyched up
And disappointed
When it doesn't go the way you wanted.

So, how do you respond?
Do you get down on yourself?
Become disillusioned?
Or, do you bounce right back
And move on to the next project?
Or, better yet,
Take a new approach and try again?

How we respond to what life hands us
Reveals our character.
Weakness is easily defeated;
Strength is in persistence.
What are you made of?
Are you strong, or weak?
Persistent, or easily defeated?

Friday, May 2, 2008

Thinking Toward Progress

To sit and think
Is sometimes a luxury.
We hurry and rush
From one task to another
Without thinking about
What we are doing or why.

But I've found through the years
That a moment of silence
Reflecting on tasks I must do
Helps me to order
My work for the day
So my efforts will multiply.

It allows me to focus
On what is important
Rather than merely reacting
To whatever crisis
Rears its ugly head
As I go through the course of a day.

So instead of being pulled
Hither and yon
Jumping to the whims of others
I stay on the tasks
That are aimed at my goals
And progress along the way.