Texas Bill Would Ban Drones at CAFOs

Texas HB 1643 would classify Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) as “critical infrastructure,” in the same category as power plants and petroleum refineries.

What does this mean?

  • It would be illegal to simply fly a drone over any CAFO in Texas, even if you don’t take pictures;
  • Flying a drone over a CAFO would be a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by jail time;
  • Even university researchers would not be able to take pictures of CAFOs for academic and research purposes.

cafoHelp us stop this new variation on the Ag-gag laws!

It is already illegal to take pictures of private property in Texas. Not only is taking drone pictures of private property a misdemeanor, but the individual or property owner may bring a civil suit against the person operating the drone, with penalties of $5,000 to $10,000, plus actual damages and attorneys’ fees.

But HB 1643 would mean that, instead of facing fines, people who take drone pictures of CAFOs could go to jail.…

Read more »

Say No to New Tax on Organic Farmers

organicsRemember the “Got Milk?” and “Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner” advertising campaigns? They were developed through “checkoff” programs designed to promote individual agricultural products.

The checkoff programs are essentially taxes on the farmers, who are forced to pay for these marketing programs whether they agree with the messages or not. Right now, certified organic farmers are exempt – but the USDA is considering creating a checkoff program that would cover all organic products.

This is the wrong path for organics and American family farmers.

In theory, checkoff programs are supported to allow an entire agricultural sector to fund research and marketing to boost a product’s success, with all parties benefiting in the process.

In reality, big industrial-scale players are the ones who benefit because the programs promote the commodity (beef, milk, etc.) without respect to how it’s grown, where it’s grown (U.S. or foreign), or who grows it (small farmers versus massive agribusiness operations).…

Read more »

Tell Texas Legislators to Hold Health Department Accountable

As we alerted you earlier this summer, the Texas Department of State Health Services has undertaken a campaign of aggressive enforcement against raw milk farmers and their customers.

This situation poses many problems for local food producers and consumers – whether you drink raw milk or not:

  • The use of law enforcement to intimidate consumers.
  • Changing the enforcement of the law based on a change in agency personnel – even though nothing has changed in the regulations and no illnesses have occurred.
  • Government harassment of producers based on complaints filed by competitors, not the public.

We’re already seeing the latter two cropping up with other types of local foods (although not as dramatically as with the raw milk busts).
This needs to stop. The health departments should be focusing on actual health risks, not using complaints from competitors as excuses to harass small local farmers and their customers.

FARFA’s been active in developing legal arguments, talking with agency officials and legislative staffers, consulting with the farmers, and more.…

Read more »

FARFA: Fighting for Small Farms and Ranches

Originally published in Edible Houston and reprinted in Edible DFW

by Pamela Walker


Reforming farm-and-food policy isn’t everyone’s cup of kombucha. In fact, most people find policy work downright unappetizing, much as they do sausage making, to which the legislative process is proverbially compared. But if we like our local kombucha and sausages and want local food production to grow, we must press for policy and regulatory reform beneficial to independent family farmers and their customers. Fortunately, we have Judith McGeary, founder and executive director of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA), doing much of the dirty work and opening ways for us to provide effective support. Joining FARFA is a good place to start.

Judith, a central Texas rancher with a biology degree from Stanford and a law degree from the University of Texas, has made FARFA a real force in influencing policy and regulations at the state and national levels.…

Read more »

Raw Milk Pickup Shut Down by State & City Agents

Health departments in Texas have stepped up their attacks on the public’s right to purchase food directly from farmers, resorting to bringing the police to harass and intimidate local raw milk customers.

That’s what happened to one group of raw milk customers in Austin recently. On May 26, they went to a private home to meet the courier that they had hired to pick up their milk, and were met by four inspectors from the City of Austin Health Department and Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS). An unmarked police car pulled into the driveway, blocking the raw milk van and a customer’s car – with her children in it – and two policemen emerged.

The inspectors proceeded to tell the customers that they could not take possession of the milk, ignoring protests that they had already paid for that milk. The inspectors also ignored the statement from the courier that he had a signed agreement with the customers making him their agent – and instead falsely wrote on the inspection report that the courier worked for the farmer.…

Read more »

Farm and Food Groups Say No to the TPP

The Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance has joined with 160 farm, food, rural, and faith groups to send a letter to Congress urging legislators to vote no on the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership (TPP).

As the letter points out: “Independent family farmers and ranchers will see little benefit” from the TPP.  “The main beneficiaries of the TPP are the companies that buy, process and ship raw agricultural commodities, not the farmers who face real risks from rising import competition.”

Here are just some of the problems with the TPP:
  • Importers will be able to challenge individual border inspection decisions, second-guessing U.S. inspectors about what food is safe and not safe to let into our country.
  • Agribusiness and biotech companies will be able to use international tribunals to challenge any real limitations on GMO crops and food, including any country, state, or local government that bans GMO imports, tests for GMO contamination, does not promptly approve new GMO crops, or requires GMO labeling.

Read more »

Texas Water Fights – Round Two

In the last Texas legislative session, legislators proposed a California-style scheme of massive water transfers around the state.  FARFA played a key role in defeating the proposed bill, but the issue is far from dead.  Legislators who see nothing wrong in using the power of the government to take water and land away from rural areas to promote unrestrained urban growth — at the expense of the children and grandchildren of both rural and urban areas — are already looking ahead to the 2017 legislative session.

On February 2, 2016, the House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing about water marketing. Click here for FARFA’s post-hearing press release.

Out of the dozen invited witnesses, not a single one represented agricultural interests.

cracked land and green lawn-1

FARFA’s executive director, Judith McGeary, submitted written testimony and testified briefly during the public testimony portion of the hearing.

During the hearing, Representative Lyle Larson (R-San Antonio) repeatedly claimed that the current system wasn’t working because some areas and landowners would not agree to sell their water for export. …

Read more »

Tell Congress to support local meat production

We have an exciting opportunity to expand access to locally produced meat for consumers around the country! U.S. Representatives Thomas Massie (R-KY) and Chellie Pingree (D-ME) have introduced legislation to make it easier for small farms and ranches to sell locally raised and processed meat to consumers.

H.R. 3187, the Processing Revival and Intrastate Meat Exemption (PRIME) Act, would give individual states the freedom to permit intra-state distribution of custom-slaughtered meat to individual consumers and to restaurants, hotels, and grocery stores that directly serve consumers. Custom-processed beef, pork, lamb, and goat are covered under the bill.vaca-y-vino-meat

Under current federal law, farmers often have to haul their animals several hours away to reach a slaughterhouse that has an inspector on-site, even if they’re selling the meat directly to consumers at a local farmers market or similar venue. This increases expenses for the farmer, raises prices for consumers, creates stress on the animals, and undermines the concept of local food.…

Read more »

Fast Track has passed, but the fight continues


June 30, 2015: Despite widespread opposition, the House and Senate approved Trade Promotion Authority, known as Fast Track, and the President signed it into law this week.

The Obama Administration and the Republican Congressional leadership resorted to bizarre procedural steps, extensive backroom deals and arm twisting, and even retaliation against those who opposed Fast Track, in order to force it through.  (The NY Times has an interesting article on some of the politics behind passing Fast Track here)

Passage of Fast Track gives Obama enhanced powers to conclude negotiations of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), and continue advancing trade negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and other such agreements.  Fast Track will limit Congressional debate over trade agreements and prevent any filibusters or amendments.

While the passage of Fast Track authority is a severe setback, the fight is not over.  Fast Track severely and improperly limits Congress’s role – but ultimately Congress will still have to vote to ratify any trade agreement after the President signs it.…

Read more »

Water Fights

With your help, we succeeded in stopping the  bill to study how to create a “statewide marketing and conveyance grid” for water in Texas.  But the fight is not yet over!  The water marketers are seeking to attach the bill as an amendment to other bills over the Memorial Day Weekend —  we need your help again!

In practical terms, a statewide water marketing and conveyance grid will mean taking more water from rural areas to supply urban centers.  But average residential water usage ranges from 60 gallons to over 300 gallons per person per day in different cities in Texas.
cracked land and green lawn-1
Are perfect green lawns important enough to drain aquifers and destroy the future of rural communities and local food?

Ultimately, this approach hurts us all, by fueling unsustainable growth and using up the water resources we all need.   

Tell your Texas legislators that we must conserve first, transfer later
Oppose any amendment that focuses on water marketing and conveyances


Call or email your State Representative today – the amendment could come up as the Sunday before Memorial Day!…

Read more »