WASHINGTON, D.C. – Texas farmers and ranchers will still have access to early warning signs of potential droughts due to the efforts of U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Ranking Member Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
The federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) had planned to retire soil moisture sensors in Texas relied upon by the state’s agricultural community to spot potential droughts. However, NOAA has delayed any action on the sensors after an inquiry from Sen. Cruz, who sent an oversight letter to NOAA about its initial decision and upcoming plans.
In November 2023, NOAA notified soil data users that it would begin in 2023 to retire 113 sensors across the country. NOAA claimed the program was being phased out due to a funding shortfall despite the network’s menial cost of about $904,000 per year to maintain, a small fraction of NOAA’s overall budget. Last year, Sen. Cruz raised concerns about some of NOAA’s non-core budget priorities, such as $9.1 million for “woke” grants focused on “environmental justice and equity [and] to support a more robust and diverse domestic seafood sector.”
As Sen. Cruz writes to NOAA Administrator Richard Spinrad,
“I write to express my concern regarding the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) recent steps to decommission 113 soil moisture sensors. Soil moisture measurements are essential for agricultural monitoring and accurate forecasts of drought and other hazards like flooding and wildfire. It is my understanding that after my office contacted NOAA expressing concern about this decommissioning, NOAA delayed taking action through this fiscal year. However, since the decommissioning is still under consideration, I strongly encourage to commit to keeping these soil moisture sensors in service.
“More than 248,000 farms and ranches in Texas rely on these forecasts to manage crops and livestock. Decommissioning these sensors would hurt farmers not just in Texas, but across the entire United States, especially in states that rely exclusively on NOAA’s network, such as Louisiana, Florida, Virginia, Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.
“The 2018 reauthorization of the National Integrated Drought Information System required NOAA to develop a strategy for monitoring the nation’s soil moisture. The resulting Strategy for the National Coordinated Soil Moisture Monitoring Networkspecifically calls for ‘a strategic and coordinated increase of in situ moisture monitoring stations across the United States.’ NOAA’s short-sighted proposal to decommission these sensors does the exact opposite.”
Sen. Cruz’s letter asks:
- how the decommissioning proposal was informed by the Strategy for the National Coordinated Soil Moisture Monitoring Network
- what the status of the strategy implementation is
- how stakeholder input was incorporated
- what the impacts of this implementation might be on weather and drought forecasting, and
- what funding is required to use and maintain these sensors annually.
As the letter states, NOAA’s decommissioning proposal would have a deeply detrimental effect on Texas farmers and ranchers. In support of Sen. Cruz’s letter, Russell Boening, President of the Texas Farm Bureau said:
“NOAA’s soil moisture sensors provide data that helps Texas farmers and ranchers prepare for and respond to drought.Agricultural producers need NOAA to provide better drought predictions by maintaining and improving the networks that collect this essential data. We thank Sen. Cruz for listening to Texas Farm Bureau’s concerns and for his leadership on this vital issue.”
Read the full text of this letter HERE.
Texas Congress members to hold briefing with USPS officials to address ongoing mail delays
MISSOURI CITY, Texas (KBTX) – District 17 Congressman Pete Sessions along with Congressmen Al Green and Troy Nehls, are set to tour a Houston USPS processing center Thursday to learn more about delivery delays impacting Texas.
The Missouri City, TX facility, identified as the source of ongoing issues, has raised concerns among residents and businesses across the Brazos Valley and Central Texas for months.
In early February KBTX spoke with a Leon County resident who waited over 30 days for delivery of heart medication that was shown on hold at the postal processing center in Missouri City.
Earlier this month Congressman Michael McCaul from the Brazos Valley and Senator John Cornyn from Texas sent a letter to the Postmaster General expressing their concerns. The lawmakers say they have received multiple reports from constituents who have experienced delays.
Their letter said in part, “Our constituents depend on USPS to carry out these services in a timely and efficient manner. When this mission cannot be completed, customer service representatives must be available to address the issue, and the agency must be transparent regarding delays or changes in services.”
It’s believed these delays are caused by failure to implement new processing technology. They are calling for more public transparency to affected customers.
The United States Postal Service previously released a statement about the issues.
“We are aware of concerns from some local Houston customers regarding their mail delivery. We want customers to know that we continue the expansion of our operations in the Houston area because of increased volume and we are adding additional capacity with a new facility to improve service. The Postal Service has dispatched additional resources from the surrounding area and implemented improved processes to address the root causes of sporadic issues to improve the reliability of mail delivery in the Houston area. Customers should also note that multiple severe weather events in Houston and across the nation have impacted many transportation, logistics, and delivery companies, and the Postal Service is no exception. We express our apologies to those who experienced a deviation from our normal dependable service and customers should already see improvements in delivery as we work through these issues.”
Thursday’s site visit will not be the first for some state and federal leaders. Congressmen Randy Webber of Beaumont and Morgan Lutrell who represent parts of Walker and Montgomery Counties held a press conference outside the facility earlier this month after being denied access. Rep. Al Green, a Houston-area congressman also spoke out about the ongoing shipping delays at the facility. During a press conference, he called on the postal service to take action and be transparent with customers experiencing delays.
“When they have a line of credit with the federal government, they ought to be standing before the cameras answering these questions. And we’re going to push them in that direction,” Green said.
“You have to assume that every package is important. Every package may have something that can actually have a circumstance associated with a person’s life,” Green added.
While the briefing and site tour are not open to the public or media, the congressmen plan to meet with reporters afterward to discuss potential solutions.
“It is important that the post office deliver on time the packages, and I can understand a day or two off, I cannot understand a week or longer, and so this, this was something that is very important that we get corrected,” said Rep. Sessions.
KBTX will be on-site in Missouri City, seeking answers from the representatives, with updates on News Three at Six.
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Copyright 2024 KBTX. All rights reserved.
Shelley Luther and Reggie Smith race for Texas House Representative
SHERMAN, Texas (KXII) – Republican incumbent Reggie Smith is being challenged by Republican Shelley Luther for Texas House District 62 State Representative for the March Primary Election.
Luther first challenged Smith in the March 2022 election. Smith won by more than 4,500 votes.
“I actually had an aneurysm and several strokes in April and had politics was the last thing on my mind,” Luther said, “But when I saw that our attorney general was trying to be impeached and other things that I saw that were going on in the Texas House, I had no choice but to step in again.”
Smith is currently running for his fourth term.
“I’m proud of the fact that we were able to ban abortion in Texas, I’m proud of the property tax cut that we were able to provide,” Smith said, “I’m proud of the fact that we’ve had three of the most conservative historic sessions during my time in the Texas House.”
School vouchers are one of the main issues in this election. Smith voted against Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s school choice bill during a special session.
“I was very disappointed that we weren’t able to accomplish that in this last session, I was prepared to vote for it,” Smith said, “We need to get a pay raise for teachers, we need to fully fund public education.”
Luther’s campaign heavily focuses on her support for school vouchers.
“I was a school teacher for 13 years, and so school choice is going to pass whether I’m in there or my opponent is in there,” Luther said, “We need someone that’s going to go in there and actually fight.”
Border security is another prominent issue in Texas currently. Both Luther and Smith said if elected they aim to protect the state.
“We have our Second Amendment right to bear arms and if we called Texans to go down there and defend our border, then that’s what we should do,” Luther said.
“We appropriated $6.5 billion this last session and $3 billion the two sessions before for border security, surveillance, and more troops,” Smith said, “We must continue to fight this fight.”
Early voting ends on March 1 and Election Day is on March 5.
Whoever wins the Republican Primary between Smith and Luther will face lone Democrat Tiffany Drake in the November General Election.
Copyright 2024 KXII. All rights reserved.
Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath likes what he sees at local elementary school
Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath gets a look at learning in Wichita Falls ISD.
The state’s top education official visited Southern Hills Elementary School on Tuesday to see kids learning with new material.
Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath wanted to see how it was going in classes using reading curriculum Wichita Falls ISD paid for with the help of state funding.
“I had a great visit at Southern Hills Elementary and was able to witness curricular and instructional improvements initiated by the district firsthand,” Morath said in a statement Tuesday. “I saw kids reading Shakespeare and learning about the war of 1812 — all indications of a robust learning environment.”
Southern Hills, Booker T. Washington and Burgess are among three WFISD elementary schools implementing Amplify Texas.
A grant of about $500,000 helped the district furnish the reading curriculum, approved by the Texas Education Agency, to campuses that feed into Kirby Middle School.
More: Students earning musical honors announced at WFISD meeting
The commissioner, members of his team and representatives from Region 9 Education Service Center toured Southern Hills Tuesday morning.
“During his visit, Mr. Morath commended the school for their dedication and the incredible efforts of our teachers and leadership,” WFISD officials said in a Facebook post.
Morath discussed the curriculum with Dr. Donny Lee, WFISD superintendent, and Southern Hills Principal Amanda Garcia.
School Board President Katherine McGregor and Place 2 Trustee Diann Scroggins were among those at the school Tuesday morning for the commissioner’s visit.
WFISD is expanding the Amplify Texas curriculum to Scotland Park, Zundy, Fain, Cunningham and Franklin elementary schools with the help of a $430,000 grant from the James N. McCoy Foundation.
Morath’s next stop Tuesday was Region 9 ESC where he was expected to speak to superintendents.
More: WFISD seeks to dispel rumors about Legacy High School
Trish Choate, enterprise watchdog reporter for the Times Record News, covers education, courts, breaking news and more. Contact Trish with news tips at email@example.com. Read her recent work here. Her X handle is @Trishapedia.
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