Action Alert (Texas): Expand Local Food Access!

Current Texas law allows for the direct sale of raw milk and home-produced foods, but both laws have stringent limitations that have limited consumer access to these sought-after foods.

Texas legislators have filed two bills to make it easier for cottage food producers and raw milk farmers to produce and sell these foods! Another bill will reduce the fees imposed on farmers’ market vendors, making it less expensive for all types of producers to sell at farmers’ markets. Combined, these three bills give a major boost to the local foods movement.

  • HB 46, by Representative Dan Flynn, would allow the sale of raw milk by licensed farmers at farmers’ markets, drop points, and through delivery.
  • HB 970, by Representative Eddie Rodriguez, expands on the existing cottage food law in several ways, including allowing sales at farmers’ markets and expanding the list of allowed foods.
  • HB 910, by Representative Lois Kolkhorst, would cap the fees imposed on farmers market vendors to no more than $50 per jurisdiction (in other words, per city or county), and make the permits valid for at least a year.

Please help us pass these bills! Below is information on how you can help, followed by more detailed information on each bill. (See information about all eight bills here.)

 

TAKE ACTION

 

The legislators need to hear from YOU! The chance of local foods bills passing this session depends heavily on the voice of Texas local foods consumers. It only takes a few minutes to contact your legislator, and it really does make a difference. Here are some helpful steps:

1. Call your State Representative.

If you don’t know who your Representative is, you can visit www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us or call the Capitol Switchboard at 512-463-4630. The Switchboard can connect you directly to your legislators’ offices if you wish, so it’s very quick!

Sample message:
“Hi, my name is _____ and I am a constituent. I am calling to urge Representative _____ to co-author HB 46, to legalize the sale of raw milk at farmers markets and other direct-to-consumer options. I also ask that the Representative support HB 970, to expand the cottage food law and allow for more home-produced foods, and HB 910, to cap the fees imposed on farmers’ market vendors. Do you know where he/she stands on these bills?”

If the staffer says they don’t know the Representative’s position (which is a common response), say: “I would very much appreciate it if you could call me back after talking with the Representative. This issue is very important to me and my family.”

You can also offer to send them materials about the bills via email. You can download our raw milk fact sheet at www.FarmAndRanchFreedom.org/raw-milk  (our fact sheets on cottage foods and farmers market fees will be posted soon) or email Judith@FarmAndRanchFreedom.org, and we can follow up.

2. Then, call your State Senator and ask him or her to support HB 46, HB 910, and HB 970 when the bills come to the Texas Senate.

 

HOUSE PUBLIC HEALTH COMMITTEE

 

The House Public Health Committee has been appointed, and the members are listed at the bottom of this article post. Both HB 46 and HB 970 will be heard by this Committee, and the members’ votes will determine whether these bills move forward or die. Please make a special effort to call if you live in one of these districts!

(Note: HB 910, the bill to cap fees, will be heard by a different committee, along with several other local foods bills that will be filed shortly. We will send out information on that Committee in a separate alert once the other bills are filed).

 

FACTS ABOUT THE BILLS

 

HB 46: RAW MILK (see bill text and other details on Texas Legislature website)

  • Would allow licensed farmers to sell raw milk at farmers markets and through delivery arrangements.
  • Makes no other change to the existing health and safety regulations for raw milk that have been successful in protecting the public’s health in Texas.
  • Sales will continue to be limited to direct-to-consumer transactions, as they are currently. The bill does not allow sales of raw milk in grocery stores.

Many advantages to HB 46:

  • Addresses the consumer demand for high-quality raw milk by making it available at farmers markets and through home delivery.
  • Benefits rural economies because direct farm-to-consumer sales of raw milk can mean the difference between a net loss on the farm and a reasonable income for the farm family – which impacts the entire community.
  • Improves the safety of raw milk by allowing producers to transport it to consumers under safe conditions.
  • By allowing a producer to make a single trip to serve multiple customers, rather than having each customer drive to the farm, the bill reduces vehicle miles, thereby benefiting air quality, traffic congestion, and public safety.

 

HB 970: COTTAGE FOODS (see bill text and other details on Texas Legislature website)

  • Under the bill passed last session, individuals can make nonpotentially hazardous baked goods, jams, jellies and dried herbs in their home kitchen to sell directly to consumers, up to $50,000 per year, without being regulated by the local or state health departments. The food must be labeled, and it can only be sold directly from the home itself. Several producers have had problems with local zoning authorities.
  • HB 970 does three things:
    • It expands the list of foods that can be made at home to include: dried fruit, candy, snack food, cereal, granola, dried mixes, and vinegars.
    • It allows for the sale to take place at locations other than the home (such as farmers markets or fairs), as long as it remains direct to the consumer.
    • It exempts cottage food operations from zoning regulations, while preserving the neighbors’ rights to bring an action for nuisance or other torts (in other words, it prevents the government from interfering with a cottage food producers’ use of his or her own home, and respects others’ property rights at the same time).
  • Cottage foods bills allow individuals to have small-scale home businesses, benefiting our local economies.
  • The bill helps to meet the growing consumer demand for locally produced food, purchased directly from the producer.
  • All of the foods allowed are recognized by FDA as nonpotentially hazardous and have been included in other states’ cottage foods laws.

 

HB 910: FARMERS MARKET FEES (see bill text and other details on Texas Legislature website)

  • Many local health departments require farmers and other food producers selling directly to consumers to apply for permits to do so. The fees associated with such permits have created a financial burden on many producers, who are small businesses with low profit margins.
  • The fees discourage farmers from participating in farmers’ markets, particularly smaller markets in less affluent areas.
  • The fees also discourage other food producers (such as prepared food providers) from participating in the markets, thereby reducing the markets’ long-term viability. Several other states exempt farmers selling farm products directly to consumers from all fees.
  • HB 910 caps the fees that can be charged by any single jurisdiction at $50 for farmers selling directly to consumers and for other food vendors at farmers’ markets. This will allow more small food producers to participate in farmers’ markets across the state.

 

MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE PUBLIC HEALTH COMMITTEE

 

Please make a special effort to call – and get your friends and family to call – if you live in one of these districts. Some of the zip codes are “split” between districts, and you can also check who your Representative is at www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us or by calling the Capitol Switchboard at 512-463-4630.

 

  • Garnet Coleman (Part of Houston – Zip Codes 77002, 003, 004, 006, 007, 010, 019, 021, 033, 048, 061, 075, 087, 089, 098) | Phone: 512-463-0524 | Email: Garnet.Coleman@house.state.tx.us
  • Nicole Collier (Part of Tarrant County – Zip Codes 6012, 76102, 76103, 76104, 76105, 76107, 76110, 76111, 76112, 7615, 76119, 76120, 76133, 76134, 76140) |  Phone: 512-463-0716 | Email: Nicole.Collier@house.state.tx.us
  • Philip Cortez (Part of Bexar County: 78002, 006, 023, 039, 052, 073, 211, 224, 226, 227, 236, 242, 245, 251, 252, 253, 254, 255) | Phone: 512-463-0269 | Email: Philip.Cortez@house.state.tx.us
  • Sarah Davis (Part of Houston – Zip Codes 77002, 004, 005, 006, 007, 008, 019, 024, 025, 027, 030, 046, 056, 057, 081, 096, 098, 401) | Phone: 512-463-0389 | Email: Sarah.Davis@house.state.tx.us
  • Bobby Guerra (Part of Hidalgo County: 78501, 78503, 78504, 78539, 78572, 78573, 78574, 78577) | Phone: 512-463-0578 | Email: Bobby.Guerra@house.state.tx.us
  • Susan King (Jones, Nolan, and Taylor Counties) | Phone: 512-463-0718 | Email: Susan.King@house.state.tx.us
  • Lois Kolkhorst (Austin, Burleson, Colorado, Fayette, Grimes, Lavaca, and Washington Counties) | Phone: 512-463-0600 | Email: Lois.Kolkhorst@house.state.tx.us

**If you are in Chairwoman Kolkhorst’s district, please be sure to say “thank you for sponsoring HB 910!”, while also asking for her support for the raw milk bill.

  • Jodie Laubenberg (Part of Collin County – Zip Codes 75002, 75048, 75069, 75074, 75087, 75094, 75098, 75166, 75173, 75189, 75407) | Phone: 512-463-0186 | Email: Jodie.Laubenberg@house.state.tx.us

**Rep. Laubenberg is a joint author on the raw milk bill. If you are her constituent, please be sure to say “thank you for joint authoring the raw milk bill!”, while asking for her support on the cottage foods bill.

  •  Elliott Naishtat (Part of the City of Austin – Zip Codes 78701, 78703, 78704, 78705, 78712, 78731, 78735, 78745, 78746, 78751, 78752, 78756, 78757, 78758, 78759) Phone: 512-463-0668 | Email: Elliott.Naishtat@house.state.tx.us
  • J.D. Sheffield (Comanche, Coryell, Erath, Hamilton, McCulloch, Mills, San Saba, and Somervell counties) | Phone: 512-463-0628 | Email: J.D.Sheffield@house.state.tx.us
  • Bill Zedler (Part of Tarrant County: 76001, 76002, 76017, 76028, 76036, 76060, 76063, 76123, 76134, 76140) Phone: 512-463-0374 | Email: Bill.Zedler@house.state.tx.us

Thank you for speaking up for Texas farms and local foods!  There are many challenges ahead as we try to pass these bills, and your participation is vital.

Working together, we can make our voices heard.