By Steven Long
HOUSTON, (Horseback) – Texas Commissioner of Agriculture Todd Staples is a savvy politician who has won every race he entered since he was elected to the Palestine City Council. He’s from an East Texas town of slightly more than 17,000 whose Anderson County population actually dwindled in the 2000 census. But the red dirt rural community is a long way from the hard ball politics of the state capital. Now the small town GOP politician is reaching for the brass ring and running for the second highest office in the state, Lt. Governor. So we thought we would ask him about the two most contentious issues in agriculture, the business he’s most recently served as the state’s top elected official – and he dodged the question.
The question was the outgrowth of a July 10th state senate committee hearing called by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst who is currently in a brutal runoff race with Tea Party Candidate Ted Cruz. The call to the senate committee related to again legalizing horse slaughter for human consumption in the Lone Star State. It was initiated by the Texas Farm Bureau, presumably a supporter of Staples.
Opponents of horse slaughter far outnumber proponents of the issue which most recent polling, by prestigious Washington firm Lake and Associates, shows is opposed by 80 percent of all Americans.
On Friday, July 20th, Horseback asked Staples’ press spokesman, Bryan Black, to get a couple of answers out of his boss to the following questions. “Could you get a statement from the commissioner considering the recent Senate committee hearing on horse slaughter. We would like to know his position. Furthermore, we would also like to know why TDA has made no effort to shut down the horse slaughter pens in Presidio that have been so much in the news lately regarding Texas Commission on Environmental Quality violations and much, much, more.”
The pens were dumping dead horse carcasses in Cibolo Creek which flows into the Rio Grande about a mile away causing a searious health hazard. Staple’s agriculture department has held its nose and looked the other way claiming to be understaffed.
On Monday, Staples dodged the direct question regarding his personal position on slaughter instructing Black to tell Horseback, “Below is a link to the recent hearing by the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Rural Affairs. During that hearing Texas Department of Agriculture Deputy Commissioner Drew DeBerry testified. His testimony reflects the agencies position on your question. We transcribed his response for you.
Staples dodged the question regarding his personal position on the issue.
Regarding the commissioner’s own position about deplorable conditions at slaughter pens along the Texas border, the spokesman answered, “The Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) runs several pens along the Texas/Mexico border to facilitate trade. TDA staff works diligently to ensure all state and federal laws are followed at these pens. The department neither runs nor has regulatory authority over the privately owned pens in Presidio. Have a wonderful evening.”
Monday evening, Horseback posed additional questions to the commissioner regarding what his position as a state official is regarding enforcement of Texas animal cruelty laws. We also asked his personal position about stringent enforcement of compliance with “Coggins” certificates required of all animals traveling in Texas. At the pen cited by the state’s environmental agency, the same Coggins documents were used again and again on multiple horses destined for a one way trip across the Rio Grande, a Texas Animal Health Commission official has admitted to Horseback Magazine..
Texas voters remain aware of Staple’s personal position on either of the contentious issues we queried him about.