Although local foods travel a short physical distance from farm to table, farmers travel a long road with obstacles: government laws and regulations made by and for the benefit of big corporate agribusinesses. Many of the barriers take the form of so-called food safety regulations, which are designed to fit the large industrial-scale operations that are the source of the majority of the foodborne illness outbreaks in this State and across the country. FARFA is working on scale-appropriate regulation that recognizes that one of the best ways to ensure food safety is to improve access to locally grown and produced foods, either sold directly by the producer to the consumer or with very short, transparent, and accountable supply chains.
Expanding opportunities for local food producers
During the 2011 and 2013 Texas Legislative Sessions, FARFA worked to pass the Cottage Food Bill, legalizing sale of non-potentially hazardous foods prepared in home kitchens. Those sales were only allowed within a specific framework: direct-to-consumer, within a list of very specific foods, and limited to $50,000 in annual sales. Despite the restrictions, a Forbes magazine article estimated that more than 1,000 new businesses have been created under the law.
However, the limitations on what can be produced and where the food can be sold limits the cottage food law’s usefulness for many farmers and food producers. The Homemade Foods Bill, sponsored by Representative Eddie Rodriguez, creates a middle tier of regulation that addresses genuine concerns about the risks of the food and expanded distribution, while still providing realistic opportunity for home production.
HB 1926 allows home preparation of foods such as tamales, canned vegetables, fermented foods, and perishable (potentially hazardous) baked goods.…
House Committees for the 2017 Session of the Texas Legislature have been named, and now is the time to make sure all the House Public Health Committee members are asked to support the Raw Milk Bill, HB 57.
Whether you are a raw milk farmer or consumer, or have never even tried raw milk, this bill is important to the local food movement as a whole for these reasons:
- Direct farm-to-consumer sales of unprocessed milk can be a lifesaver for many small family farms — we’ve had many farmers tell us that raw milk is what saved them from going out of farming.
- Everyone should have the right to decide what you eat and what you feed your family.
Help support family farmers and consumers’ rights — speak up for HB 57!
Raw Milk Bill Information
Raw milk is already legal in Texas. There are 45 licensed Grade A Raw for Retail dairies, which are regularly inspected and the milk tested using the same (or higher) standards as for milk in the grocery stores.…
Make an impact on local food laws by joining us at the State Capitol on Thursday, March 9. Be on the front lines as we educate legislators about the issues important to our movement.
We’ll help you prepare for Local Foods Awareness Day during a 90-minute webinar on February 28. You’ll learn everything you need to know about the bills we currently have before the 2017 Texas Legislature. And we will cover all the steps to contact and hold meetings with State Senators and Representatives at their Capitol offices. It all takes place in the comfort of your own home … all you need is a computer or mobile device and the internet!
FARFA’s Local Foods Awareness Day
Thursday, March 9, 2017, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. (If you are unable to be there for the entire day, please register and come when you can!)
PLACE: Legislative Conference Center, Room E2.002, Capitol Extension, Texas Capitol, Austin
PARKING: Reasonably priced parking is available at the Visitors Parking Lot, San Jacinto Blvd., between 12th and 13th streets.…
The Texas Legislature is now in session! We have until May 29 to pass bills to help local farmers and food producers – and to kill bad bills that could endanger the future of agriculture in our state.
Check out our list of five important good bills that have been filed this session below.
The Advocacy Process … Step-by-Step
Each bill will be assigned to a committee, which will hold a hearing where the public will testify, both for and against the bill. If you are directly affected by any of these bills and want to testify, please email Judith@FarmAndRanchFreedom.org with your name, contact info, and a brief explanation of your interest in the bill.
If the committee votes in favor of the bill, it then goes to the Calendars Committee (in the House) or the Lieutenant Governor to be scheduled for a vote by the full chamber. Then comes the vote by the full House or Senate.…
After several months of hostile treatment by agents from the Texas Department of State Health Services, raw milk consumers and their farmers have something to celebrate. The Commissioner of Health and Human Services, which oversees DSHS, has pledged that the health department will NOT be taking any action against raw milk consumers or their couriers.
This is a major victory for all those who helped in this important grassroots effort! Thank you to everyone who spoke up!
Last summer, the Texas Department of State Health Services embarked on a new, extremely hostile approach, to regulating raw milk. FARFA has worked on a state-level bill to legalize the delivery of raw milk and sales at farmers’ markets (sales currently are legal only at the farm). Over the past several sessions, we have made steady progress toward passing the new bill.
In the meantime, however, consumers have worked together to reduce the burden imposed by the regulations; they have formed groups, and either a member of the group drives to the farm to pick up everyone’s milk, or they hire a courier to pick it up for them.…
As autumn sets in, state legislators turn their attention to the bills they will champion in the coming year. Thanks to our Texas members, FARFA is positioned to lobby the Texas Legislature extensively, and we have a full plate of bills planned for 2017.
We’ve made progress on gaining backing – and sponsors – on our proposals, so this is the latest on where each of those bills stand.
Although Texas law provides for “agricultural valuation” of land used primarily for raising food, many farmers across the state have experienced problems in qualifying for such valuation due to bias against sustainable farming methods, urban farms, and produce farmers. This has meant that small, sustainable farmers have often paid thousands of dollars in additional taxes – a significant burden for these small businesses that provide food for local communities.
Last session, FARFA supported a bill:
- To specify that mixed vegetable and fruit production qualifies as “agricultural use”;
- To direct tax appraisers to consider the type of production used, including organic and sustainable methods such as rotational grazing, in determining the degree of intensity of use necessary to qualify;
- To direct the Comptroller to develop guidelines to address under what conditions small tracts and diversified farms qualify for agricultural valuation. …
It’s been a busy summer for local food issues in Texas, between the ongoing developments in the state’s health department crackdown on raw milk, the state’s adoption of new federal food safety regulations, and laying the groundwork for a slate of bills for next year’s Legislative Session.
As we head into the fall, here’s a quick summary of where things stand:
As we’ve alerted you before, the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) worked with local health departments and law enforcement to disrupt private groups’ distribution of raw milk earlier this spring and summer. The courier for a Harris County-area group was issued a citation and had to appear in court on August 24. (Background available here.)
FARFA Executive Director Judith McGeary attended the Harris County hearing, during which the courier (who was cited for operating an unlicensed retail food establishment) was represented by a criminal attorney provided by the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund.…
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.…
During the Independence Day weekend, the Harris County Health Department pulled Sheriff’s deputies away from a domestic dispute in order to bust a raw milk drop point.
This raid targeted adults who were picking up raw milk, purchased from a licensed, inspected farm, using a courier that they hired. To the Health Department, this apparently is a greater public concern than addressing domestic violence.
The Health Department refused to allow people to take the milk for which they had already paid, and issued a citation to the courier, ordering her to appear in court next month.
Just as in the similar incident in Austin, the department’s claim was that the courier needed to have a food establishment license, as is required of restaurants, food stores, and food trucks, for example. But if this is really what the law means, then UPS, FedEx, UberEats and other restaurant delivery services, CSA drop points, and volunteers organizing bulk purchases of any food are all operating illegally.…
There are four core points. (Click on each point to jump to details.)
- Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance stands behind the raw milk farms and the customers who have set up legal group distribution points.
- The recent raid appears to be due to a combination of an industry complainant and “rogue” bureaucrats.
- If government agents visit your home, you have legal rights and can choose how to proceed.
- YOU can make a difference!
WE STAND BEHIND
RAW MILK PRODUCERS AND CONSUMERS
Texas allows the purchase of Grade A raw milk only when purchased directly from the farmer at the place of production. For years, raw milk customers have cooperated to pick up each other’s milk and save a lot of time and gas – benefiting us all by reducing vehicle miles, traffic, and air pollution from unnecessary driving.…