New Speaker, committee assignments at start of 86th Texas Legislature

By Victoria Whitehead, HPWD General Counsel

 The 86th Texas Legislature convened in regular session on Jan. 8 in Austin.  Rep. Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) was elected Speaker of the House of Representatives. In recent weeks, both Speaker Bonnen and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced the membership of the House and Senate standing committees.

 House Committee Assignments

Speaker Bonnen selected Representative Lyle Larson (R-San Antonio) to chair the House Natural Resources Committee once again.  Speaker Bonnen also appointed Rep. Will Metcalf (R- Conroe) to serve as Vice Chairman.  Rep. Walter “Four” Price (R-Amarillo) was reappointed to the committee.

 Follow this link for other House Natural Resources Committee members.

 Follow this link for an entire list of House Standing Committees and members.

 Senate Water and Rural Affairs Committee:

Lt. Governor Patrick made some structural changes to the standing Senate Committees by splitting the Agriculture, Water, & Rural Affairs into two committees: 1) the Committee on Agriculture and 2) the Committee on Water & Rural Affairs.  State Senator Charles Perry (R-Lubbock) maintained his Chairmanship of the Water & Rural Affairs Committee. 

 In a statement on his social media, Chairman Perry said, “I am looking forward to fight for West Texas this legislative session. I believe serving on these committees will give West Texas a strong voice as we look to keep Texas the best state in the nation to live, work, and raise a family. I want to thank Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick for trusting me with these important committee assignments.” 

 Follow this link for other Senate Committee on Water & Rural Affairs members.

 Follow this link for an entire list of Senate Standing Committees and members.

 HPWD will provide legislative updates in the electronic and print versions of The Cross Section throughout the session.

Dan Taylor receives Texas Agricultural Lifetime Leadership Award

From AgriLife Today

COLLEGE STATION – The Governor Dolph Briscoe Jr. Texas Agricultural Lifetime Leadership, or TALL,  program has honored Daniel Taylor with the Texas Agricultural Lifetime Achievement Award.

The award was presented recently at the Austin Club during a “Tribute to Texas Leadership” reception, hosted by The Governor Dolph Briscoe Jr. TALL program alumni, the Texas A&M University System and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. The event featured Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick as its keynote speaker.

Previous honorees of the TALL Lifetime Achievement Award include former Texas Governor Dolph Briscoe and former Congressman Charlie Stenholm.

Since 2009, Taylor has been president/manager of DLT Enterprises Inc. where he is involved in agricultural investments and land management in Castro, Hockley, Lamb, Llano, Lubbock, Lynn, McCulloch and Terry counties in Texas.

“TALL has benefited greatly from the wisdom and guidance Dan Taylor has contributed,” said Dr. Jim Mazurkiewicz, TALL program director in College Station. “His first-hand knowledge of agriculture operations combined with his passion for education and his sharing that knowledge has made a huge contribution to this state.”

After graduating from Texas Tech University with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture education, Taylor spent 10 years as an agriculture science teacher at Lubbock Cooper High School in Woodrow, where he led students involved in all FFA activities and participated in many state and national contests.

In 1975, Taylor became manager and co-owner of Buster’s Gin and later purchased the gin in 1983. From a humble beginning of ginning less than 2000 bales from only two customers, Taylor each year saw increased production, according to his award nomination. He later updated the gin to a modern, state-of-the art facility, always keeping the quality of ginning and service a priority.

Keeping with his educational roots, Taylor built an expansion on the gin with space for the public to experience the cotton ginning process in person, along with a museum that includes antique ginning equipment and memorabilia Taylor has collected over the years.

Through the years, Taylor has served as president of the Bayer Museum of Agriculture and has been a member of the Texas Tech School of Agriculture and Natural Resources advisory board. He previously served as president of the Texas FFA Foundation Board and is still a board member.

The Governor Dolph Briscoe Jr. Texas Agricultural Lifetime Leadership program is a competitive leadership development program that includes seminars with experts, on-site tours, meetings with business and government leaders, international study and personal skills improvement. It is funded by individuals and institutions through private gifts and grants. Participants pay a participant fee and AgriLife Extension provides administrative support with 100 percent of the program support paid by the agriculture industry.

The TALL program is designed for men and women in the early stages of their leadership careers. Each cohort consists of at least 25 people who are associated with agriculture. Participants come from every sector of agriculture and all parts of Texas.

-30-

Water conservation education series scheduled

The first day of spring is just a couple of months away.

With that in mind, it is time to start thinking about adding water saving practices to your 2019 landscape.

Join Randall County AgriLife Extension Horticulture Agent Erin Jones-Gray and a group of local experts in February as they share water conservation techniques for the Texas Panhandle.

Each session is from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the Happy State Bank Academic and Research Building, West Texas A&M University, 600 WTAMU Drive, in Canyon.

The cost is $10 per person. This allows persons to attend one or all six workshops, if desired.

The sessions are as follows:

▪ February 4: “Selecting Plants for the Texas High Plains” with Neal Hinders of Canyon’s Edge Nursery.

▪ February 11: “Rainwater Harvesting” with Katherine Drury of High Plains Underground Water Conservation District.

▪ February 25: “Tree Care in Years of Drought” with Ben Wethington of Wethington Landscape Management.

▪ March 4: “Managing Irrigation Systems” with Roger Gloe, President of the Randall County Master Gardeners. He is a Texas licensed irrigator.

▪ March 18: “Watering Landscapes in the Texas Panhandle” with Larry Bedwell, Grounds/Transportation Manager for West Texas A&M University.

 March 25: “Soil Fertility” with Fred Vocasek of ServiTech.

Additional information is available by calling (806) 468-5543 or emailing erin.jones@ag.tamu.edu.

Improving Irrigation Efficiency with Telemetry

By Katherine Drury, HPWD Conservation Connect

There have been many advances in irrigation technology during the past century. Low Energy Precision Application (LEPA) center pivot systems and subsurface drip irrigation have taken the place of furrow irrigation with open, unlined ditches. With irrigation application efficiencies nearing 100 percent, researchers and irrigation equipment manufacturers are turning their attention to improved system monitoring and scheduling.

Telemetry technology, allowing remote monitoring and control of center pivot and subsurface drip irrigation systems, is an emerging trend among producers. The most basic systems allow the producer to remotely monitor an irrigation system and turn it on or off by clicking a button on his phone or computer. The more advanced telemetry systems can incorporate soil moisture information and weather data to help a producer schedule irrigation.

Jonathan James, a cotton and wheat producer in Floyd and Crosby Counties, utilizes monitoring technology on his irrigation systems. He said this equipment has been a valuable addition to his operation. “Mrs. FieldNet,” as James’ wife calls it, frequently sends him text messages about the status of his irrigation systems. This keeps him in the loop, if a system fails.

Earlier this summer, he and his family were about to take a day trip out of town. As always, he checked his irrigation systems that morning before leaving.

“I drove by a system with one of the monitors on it,” James said. “Everything was fine. The monitor said it was fine. Visually, it was running.”

He drove to check on the final center pivot. After ensuring that it was working properly, he turned around to go home before leaving town.

“That one pivot that I had driven by ten minutes earlier texted me that it had shut off,” he said. “I stopped by and had it fixed in about 30 minutes. If I had been without the monitoring system, the pivot would’ve sat there for 24 hours before I made it back again.”

He estimates that he could have lost upwards of half a million gallons of water down the turn row had he not been immediately notified of the irrigation system malfunction.

James manages 19 center pivots. He drives about three hours every day to check on each of his fields and irrigation systems. He said this telemetry equipment helps him prioritize his route.

“I farm from north of Lorenzo to south of Dougherty. It takes me about three hours to make a circle to see every one of them. I still go to every one every day, but if I get up and see that one is off, I know I’m going there first and then make my circle rather than going around and showing up there at 11 o’clock. That’s another four or five hours it might have saved me.”

He said irrigation systems can shut down for a variety of reasons, which range from getting stuck in the mud to power surges. He estimates that on average, one of his systems malfunctions every day during the irrigation season. The ability to remotely communicate with his irrigation systems has been invaluable.

“The amount of time that it saves you and the information you collect from it is such a useful tool.”

Telemetry allows producers to track when their systems were turned on or off and how long they are in operation. This data can be exported and evaluated with each data point serving as an opportunity to learn and refine the process for next season.

“Efficiency is the name of the game in farming. Every year, we’re trying to squeeze just a little more and a little more, and this increases my efficiency of keeping machines running.”

Victoria Whitehead promoted to HPWD General Counsel

Victoria Whitehead has been promoted to General Counsel for the High Plains Underground Water Conservation District (HPWD) in Lubbock.  She previously served as HPWD Governmental Affairs Director.
 
In addition to some of her previous duties, she will now oversee all groundwater law and policy issues, grant funding acquisitions, HPWD election administration, state and federal compliance, and district representation for other legal matters. 
 
She will represent the district at various association meetings, groundwater planning meetings, and at committee hearings during the upcoming 86th Texas Legislature.
 
“We are fortunate to have Victoria as part of the HPWD team. Her training and skills are a valuable asset to the district.  It is nice to have someone with a local background that understands the issues of this region,” said General Manager Jason Coleman.
  
Whitehead grew up in the Panhandle, and received her bachelor’s degree in political science and her Juris Doctorate degree from Texas Tech University.
 
She previously worked in the General Counsel’s office at Texas Tech University and for several legislators before joining the HPWD staff in 2016. These include Senator Robert Duncan of Lubbock, Representative Drew Darby of San Angelo, and U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.
 
Some of her honors include the Texas Tech School of Law’s “Top Extern” award and the Capitol Crowd’s “House Intern Most Likely to be Running the Legislature in 10 years” recognition.  Gov. Greg Abbott appointed her to serve as a Student Regent for the Texas Tech University System Board of Regents for 2015-2016.