Thank you, Dave Scott, and thank you for your leadership of this important group.
Not only do ranchers feed our state, our nation and the world, you're also the icons that come to mind when people think of our state.
So, you should probably get credit somewhere for your positive impact on Texas tourism as well.
I want to thank you all for inviting me here today as you meet to discuss the key issues facing Texas agriculture.
As is usually the case, the challenges facing our state's ranchers are a mix of the environmental and economic.
On the environmental front, we find ourselves in the crosshairs of an increasingly activist EPA that recently declared CO2 a toxic substance and is working to destroy our flex-permitting process that has left our air cleaner than the national average. In light of the economic challenges facing our nation it boggles my mind that the federal government would not only allow a rogue agency to kill jobs and damage the economy but keep pursuing cap & trade legislation that will kill jobs while it drives up the price of everything from electricity and gasoline to feed and medicine.
It kind of makes you wonder what Washington DC has against Texas.
When you see the changes to the Clean Water Act being kicked around in Congress...it makes you wonder what DC has against private landowners, too.
Land ownership is an essential part of the Texas way of life and land ownership has always included the water on it and the minerals under it.
Any effort by the federal government to upend that dynamic will be met with the strongest resistance from your governor and this state.
Speaking of land ownership, I'm especially proud of the progress that we have made when it comes to eminent domain issues.
As the son of ranchers, I clearly understand that your land is more than your livelihood it is your life and your heritage and I salute the loving grasp you have maintained on it.
That's why I worked to outlaw the possibility of the government using eminent domain to give your land to a private developer.
I supported the Legislature's efforts to pass a joint resolution that became Proposition 11 which Texas wholeheartedly endorsed as a constitutional amendment.
There is still more to be done in this next Legislative session to further strengthen private property rights so my team is working with legislators and ag organizations to craft a bill that we can pass together next session.
Only time will tell if Washington will sidetrack that as well. I've heard people wonder why I'm so concerned about what goes on in Washington DC and the answer is simple: someone has to stand up for our citizens.
As the current administration interferes in our business spends money it doesn't have and piles up massive debt for our children to pay we can't just stand idly by and let it happen.
Maybe folks in agriculture have a better understanding of the downside of accumulating too much debt because we've seen it topple our friends and neighbors.
Over the years, too many of us in this room have listened to the drone of the auctioneer's voice as a neighbor's property and possessions were sold to cover debt and another family's tradition in agriculture came to an end.
Tough experiences like that, and some wise words from our parents taught us that setting aside money is better than piling up debt.
Shaped by those lessons, I'm sure I rubbed some folks the wrong way when I first came to Austin from Haskell County as a representative and hounded my fellow legislators to defend their spending.
Their irritation probably got a little worse in 2003 when, as governor, I opted to tackle a $10 billion shortfall with spending cuts instead of raising taxes.
As a result, Texas runs a lot leaner than the other states but we have a whole lot to show for it including more jobs, more exports and more Fortune 1000 companies than anyone else.
My approach can be summed up in four simple rules.
Number one, we don't spend all the money, so we have cash set aside for a rainy day.
Number two, we keep our regulations predictable so employers know what to expect from one quarter to the next.
Number three, we've reformed our legal system to cut down on the junk lawsuits that had overrun our economy and our healthcare system.
Number four, we've made our schools more accountable to improve education and better prepare our future workforce.
Those fundamental guidelines have freed up Texans to compete and that's all any Texan needs...a chance.
In my experience, competition just brings out the best in people.
Knowing that you will sink or swim based on your efforts makes a person work that much harder whether that's figuring out more efficient ways to run a business or keeping up to date on the latest technology and techniques to maximize the yields from your operations.
That competitive spirit makes Texas the greatest state in the Union. There is no other state that can match the natural beauty of Texas but the true strength of our state flows from our people and their desire to live free. That's why government must be held in check, so that its tendency to grow and interfere and over-reach never interferes with the individual's ability to lead their families and pursue their dreams.
Section 2 of the Texas Bill of Rights puts it simply "All political power is inherent in the people and all free governments are founded on their authority and instituted for their benefit."
As governor, I have never forgotten that fact, and I never will.
As you go about your business during your meetings here I want you to know that you have the gratitude of your fellow Texans for the contribution you make to our strong economy and our unique culture.
You embody the rugged endurance of the American spirit and that unique Texan stubbornness that has caused our Republic and our state to endure and will be its strength in the days to come to all the members of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association along with your families past, present and future. I want to congratulate you for your tireless work commend you for your contribution to our state and thank you for friendship over the years.
May God bless you and, through you, may He continue to bless the great state of Texas and this nation we love so much.