Flickr/ Marco40134 (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Far from the original spindletop, a group of maverick Texas farmers are trying to make money on a whole different kind of oil: olive oil. For years, folks in South Texas have harvested olives, planting tens of thousands of acres of trees. Now, they say, it’s time for growth.

Demand for the oil both at home and abroad is high, and the trees growing in some of the world’s biggest producers – Spain, Italy – have been hard-hit this year with drought and disease. Is it time for Texas olive oil, then?

facebook screenshot/Texas Tribune

From the Texas Tribune: Don’t expect Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller to apologize over a social media post that appeared to call for the atomic bombing of “the Muslim world” – despite an outcry from critics.

Miller, who is currently on a trade mission to China, did not personally share a controversial photo that appeared on his campaign Facebook account and has since been removed, Todd Smith, the Republican's campaign spokesman, said Monday. The commissioner has no plans to figure out which of his staffers shared the controversial posting, or to apologize, Smith said.

“We’re not going to apologize for the posts that show up on our Facebook page,” said Smith, estimating that 18 people have access to the campaign account. “I don’t know who did it, but I’m not going to start a witch hunt to find out who did.” 

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

Note: This story will be updated as it develops.

Texas public schools can once again can have deep fat fryers and soda machines on campus, starting this fall. Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, who oversees school nutrition policy in Texas, announced Thursday he’s lifting the decade-old ban as part of his new five-point plan to combat childhood obesity. Miller says schools don’t have to put in deep fryers or soda machines.

"We're just saying if you want [a deep fryer], go get one," Miller said in an interview at his office Thursday. "I'd be surprised if there's a dozen schools [that] put in deep fryers. One thing, we're not going to give them any money. They're going to have to go buy those."

Sarah Jasmine Montgomery/KUT News

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller wants to end a decade-old ban on deep fried food in Texas public schools. 

Miller, who was elected last year, believes local school districts — not the state or federal government — should decide whether schools serve fried foods. He says the ban on deep fat fryers goes against his philosophy at the Department of Agriculture. 

“We’re about giving school districts freedom, liberty and individual responsibility," Miller says. "We’re all about local control and not big brother, big government control.”

Fall in Texas is synonymous with the sweet taste of pecans, be it in pies, cookies, or by themselves. And although it may be early in the season, pecan sellers have already begun to set up stands along Central Texas roads.

This year’s early winter freezes, in addition to the ongoing drought, will undoubtedly have some effect on the season’s production rates. But because Texas is large and areas that grow pecans experienced varied weather, the Texas Pecan Growers Association says buyers should expect prices to be about the same this year as last year.

“The crop is not really low. When the crop is really low, the prices usually go much higher, but because there is a decent crop in Texas, they shouldn’t go too high," TPGA Associate Director of Sales and Marketing Blair Krebs said.

Mike Lee, KUT

From StateImpact Texas:

He's run for office three times and lost. But here he is again, the novelist and troubadour that made a name for himself by turning country clichés into satiric social commentary, running for office. Richard "Kinky" Friedman (he got the nickname for his hair) is running as a Democrat for Agriculture Commissioner, and he has a plan to make Texas "greener." He wants to make hemp and marijuana legal in Texas.

“I’m not a dope smoker, okay?” he says with a point of his trademark unlit cigar. “Except with Willie [Nelson]. More as a Texas etiquette kind of thing.” First, his argument for hemp, which is in the same family as marijuana but in its industrial form doesn’t have the medicinal or recreational uses of marijuana. Friedman argues that if cotton farmers in Texas were allowed to grow hemp instead, the trade-offs would be attractive.

William Higgins and Yvonne Martinez-Higgins

Agriculture is big business in Texas. Statewide, it has a $100 billion dollar economic impact.

But the industry may be at risk. The average age of a Texas farmer or rancher is 59. And fewer young people are taking over the labor-intensive work.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has set up a program to assist aging agricultural workers in Texas. They’ve also identified a population that may be well-suited for taking over the work – veterans. Turgano

Sustainable agriculture has found a new home in Austin – and students are the first to benefit from it.

Austin Community College is set to launch its Sustainable Agricultural Entrepreneurship program, teaching agricultural knowledge and skills in sustainable crop growth. The program will include three different non-credit courses that will be held at ACC's new 98-acre Elgin Campus.

The cost of groceries in Texas has gone up as a result of drought conditions in Texas and across the country.

A survey from the Texas Farmers Bureau finds that the price of a uniform basket of goods for an average Texas shopper is $46.40, a five and a half percent rise over last fiscal quarter.

@Cevola Flickr/

Fredericksburg peach trees are just starting to bloom, and growers in the Hill Country are cautiously optimistic about this year’s crop.

The cool weather early in the year that can lead to especially sweet peaches also can ruin them if there’s a cold snap too late in the season.