SB 656: An Agriculture and Rural Ombudsman

Easing the regulatory frustrations for small farmers

 

Texas farmers and small-scale food producers must navigate a convoluted regulatory landscape to legally operate their businesses.  Confusion over ambiguous regulations and unintentional violations of regulations impose costs not only on the producer, but also on regulatory agencies in lost time and unnecessary expense.

SB 656, by Senator Judith Zaffirini, and HB 3798, by Roberto Alonzo, can solve the confusion by creating an agriculture and rural ombudsman office within the Texas Economic Development and Tourism Department of the Governor’s Office.

The regulatory maze is created by several factors:

  • Multiple agencies: the Department of State Health Services (DSHS), Texas Department of Agriculture, and the Texas Animal Health Commission each separately regulate aspects of farming and food businesses.
  • Multiple jurisdictions: Many farmers sell their food in multiple cities or counties.  As a result, they have to comply not only with DSHS regulations, but with the patchwork of requirements from local health departments.
  • One-size-fits-all regulations: The regulations usually are written for large-scale producers, and it is often far from clear what a small-scale producer must do to comply.
  • Piecemeal regulation: While many farmers are producing multiple products for both environmental and economic reasons, the regulations are designed for single, large-scale product lines. Many farmers are required to get multiple permits from different sections or divisions of various agencies, multiplying their costs and the potential for confusion.

Creating an ombudsman position would encourage the establishment and growth of Texas agricultural and food businesses, reduce their expenses, and improve regulatory compliance and consistency.  A single ombudsman who is familiar with all regulations and their application will provide a much-needed resource for the businesses that are providing food — and jobs — for Texans.

 

Read the entire text of SB 656 here.

Take Action

Call or email your State Senator and Representative to urge him or her to support SB 656 / HB 3798 and help move the bill forward. A phone call has the greatest impact and allows you to find out if they are aware of and support the ombudsman bill. Remember to keep the conversation polite and to-the-point.

You can find out who your senator and representative are by going to www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us or calling the Texas Capitol Switchboard at 512-463-4630.

If you call after hours, you can simply leave a message:

“Hi, my name is ____, and I am a constituent. I am calling to urge Senator/Representative  ______ to co-author SB 656 / HB 3798, the Agriculture and Rural Ombudsman Bill, and to help the bill move forward as quickly as possible. I would like to know where my Senator/Representative stands on this issue, please. You can call me back at _________.”

If you prefer email, your Senator’s email address is firstname.lastname@senate.texas.gov and Representative’s is firstname.lastname@house.texas.gov.