As I reflect over the past year's events, I find that we still have a lot to be thankful for during this traditional Thanksgiving holiday.

Yes, we endured some trying times with a drought that caused some significant crop losses, but on the other hand several producers learned that sesame works well here in the Coastal Bend. Oh, and we were spared the wrath of two hurricanes, although Dolly's rain did cause some cotton loss in southern parts of the Coastal Bend.

I went to Anahuac to assist livestock producers with the recovery effort from Ike, and saw first hand the devastation that a storm surge can cause. We need to keep those folks in mind, as they still have a long way to go to recover as thousands of acres of grassland are now unproductive due to salt, and many homes need rebuilding, and this will take years to recover.

Our national economy is experiencing some trouble, but here in Texas we are still percolating right along. Texas sales tax receipts show the calendar year-to-date county sales tax allocations are running 7.6 percent ahead of 2007. Yes, we saw record fuel prices this summer, and along with that some record grain prices, but what goes up will come down as we have now seen with commodity prices and fuel prices.

We have elected a new president and it looks like a smooth transition will take place, and there is hope that new leadership will work to solve the many problems that this country is now facing. We are an optimistic group of people, always looking to the future and a better way to do things to ultimately improve the lives of all.

So as you spend time with family this week, be thankful for the ability to live and work in a free country that has the world's safest, most dependable and affordable food supply thanks to our farmers and ranchers.

Menu items for a classic Thanksgiving dinner, including turkey, stuffing, cranberries, pumpkin pie and all the basic trimmings, will cost just a bit more this year, but remain affordable, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation. AFBF's 23rd annual informal price survey of classic items found on the Thanksgiving Day dinner table indicates the average cost of this year's feast for 10 is $44.61, a $2.35 price increase from last year's average of $42.26.

"Throughout the year, we're fortunate to enjoy a bounty of foods produced in every state of our great nation," AFBF president Bob Stallman said. "It's especially appropriate as we gather at the Thanksgiving table to savor not only food and fellowship, but to take a moment to recognize that this blessing begins with our hard-working farm and ranch families."

"Food prices rode the energy price roller coaster up during the first half of 2008, and as the year winds down, energy prices have moderated somewhat but food prices have not come down," Jim Sartwelle, an AFBF economist, said. "Despite that, the components of this classic Thanksgiving dinner cost less compared to 1988 when the effects of inflation are removed.

"Even at these slightly higher prices, the cost per person for this special meal remains lower than what Americans pay for most 'value meals' at fast-food outlets."

By the way, the Nueces County Office of Texas AgriLife Extension Service will conduct a private pesticide applicator training seminar on Dec. 5 at the Nueces County Extension Office located at 710 E Main Ave. in Robstown.

The training will begin at 8:15 a.m., followed by testing administered by the Texas Department of Agriculture.

A private applicator is defined by law as a person who uses or supervises the use of a restricted-use or state-limited use pesticide for the purpose of producing an agricultural commodity.

Participants in the training should secure a study manual from their local Extension Office prior to the training. The study manual is $25. Furthermore, participants in the training are encouraged to bring a pencil and calculator to the exam.

Reviewing the study manual prior to the training and test will improve one's performance on the exam.

Individuals with disabilities who require an auxiliary aid, service or accommodation in order to participate in any of the mentioned activities, are encouraged to contact the County Extension Office eight days before all programs for assistance.

Jeffrey Stapper is the Agricultural and Natural Resources Agent for Nueces County. Readers may contact him at (361) 767-5217.