FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 28, 2007
(512) 463-0120 office
AUSTIN -- As the regular session of the Texas Legislature drew to a close Monday, State Senator Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa commended his colleagues for agreeing to take immediate steps to guarantee the safety of Texas' valuable agriculture industry by combating specific diseases that could threaten our South Texas growers and severely impact the local economy.
"Protecting Texas valuable agriculture from extremely damaging invasive pests and disease is a top priority," Senator Hinojosa said.
Senator Hinojosa authored a budget rider to secure $1.6 million for research into a virus that causes disease in potatoes. The rider creates an agreement between the Texas Department of Agriculture and the Texas A&M Extension Station to conduct comprehensive research into the harmful virus called Zebra chip after the dark stripes it makes on affected potatoes. The disease has already resulted in millions of dollars in crop losses for South Texas growers. There is also concern that the virus could spread northwards, ruining Texas' potato industry. An economic impact study by Texas A&M showed that losses from Zebra chip would reach $100 million in lost business in Texas and almost 1,000 jobs.
In addition, Senator Hinojosa worked with Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples to secure $1.3 million for 12 new employees to undertake inspections for harmful plant diseases, including the citrus canker that could put South Texas’ valuable citrus crops at risk.
"Under the plan, inspections will increase dramatically," Senator Hinojosa said. "Plant shipments entering Texas will be subject to more than 350 additional quarantine inspections and more than 8,500 additional man hours of scrutiny by state inspectors."