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.
UPDATE 6/15/17: Victory in Harris County Trial of Raw Milk Courier
Negotiations yesterday afternoon with the Harris County, Texas, District Attorney’s Office resulted in dropping all of the raw milk-related charges against the Houston-area courier.
During the negotiations – conducted under the watchful gaze of some 50+ raw milk supporters who packed the courtroom — the District Attorney said that the issue of raw milk wasn’t the only or even primary focus. She instead claimed that the four charges, for failure to have a food establishment permit and for unsanitary conditions on two separate occasions, were about not only the milk, but even more about the cheese and eggs the inspectors had observed at the same time.
Note that this is the first time such a claim has been made. In all previous discussions, the health department’s arguments have focused on the raw milk. So the DA’s starting point represented a clear retreat by the department – perhaps reflecting the fact that the State Health Department backed away from pursuing consumers and their agents last fall after we publicized their actions.…
Each session, we work to build support to move our issues further forward, and this session was no different. We fight hard and hope that our bills pass, but success is measured in smaller pieces than simply pass/not pass. At the same time that we work on the specific bills, we are also building recognition of the local food and sustainable agriculture movement, strengthening our position as a recognized stakeholder.
Policy changes take time. Rarely does a bill pass the first time it is introduced, and the more controversial or unfamiliar a topic, the longer it takes. This session, a bill to ban texting while driving is finally expected to be signed by the Governor, after ten years of dedicated work. Compared to texting, the questions around local foods and sustainable agriculture are very foreign to most legislators!
Unfortunately, this legislative session was a complete mess, fay beyond the world of ag and food.…
May 26, 2017: With your help, last weekend we succeeded in amending SB 1172, the Monsanto Bill, to reduce the damage it will do.
As originally filed, the bill would have blocked local control of seeds and of everything associated with cultivating plants. This would mean no ability for local communities to control the planting of GMO seeds and much more – no local control over herbicides, land applications of manure, water usage, and so much else. This would leave local farmers, landowners, and community members without any recourse from their locally elected officials.
We fought for, and got, an amendment, sponsored by State Representative Eddie Rodriguez, that limits the bill to seeds only.
It’s still a bad bill, but a significantly LESS bad bill than before. Given the power of Monsanto, DuPont, Dow, and Farm Bureau behind this bill, even this partial victory is a huge step.
Now we need to keep the Rodriguez Amendment in the bill!…
We were successful in stalling the bad seed & sprays bill for almost a month — but Monsanto and its allies succeeded in moving it forward yesterday. And just in case we are able to block them on the “traditional” way to pass a bill (i.e. getting it approved by both chambers), they have found a parallel, alternative path. So we have to block them in BOTH chambers now.
- SB 1172, which would deprive local governments of the ability to regulate seeds or anything involved in the cultivation of plants, will come to the House floor on Sunday for a vote by the full House.
- If we are able to stop SB 1172, Big Ag’s backup plan is to use the amendment process to essentially bypass the House floor. Yesterday, Senators Perry and Buckingham amended HB 3582, an uncontroversial little bill, to add language that blocks local control of seeds & the cultivation of plants. …
There are less than 3 weeks left in the legislative session – the flood of email action alerts will end soon! To everyone who has read our alerts, made phone calls, sent emails, or appeared at the Capitol alongside us, thank you for speaking up for local food and sustainable agriculture.
Whatever bills pass or die this session, we are making an important long-term impact from having a presence at the Capitol and letting legislators know we are paying attention and engaged. Building power in politics can be done with lots of money — or it can be done with people and time. Thank you for helping to build the strength of our movement!
The update on all the bills we’ve been working on (either in support or in opposition), as of May 9, 2017:
Because the House is moving so slowly, the bad feedlot bill (HB 1643), still hasn’t been voted on even though it was scheduled for Saturday.…
Update: HB 1643 has passed the House and is on the Senate’s schedule for Wednesday, May 24 – the last day bills can be voted on. We need to stop it TODAY.
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.
Help 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.…
(Updated 5/3/2017: SB 1392 continues to be pending in committee.)
We’re been warning you about it, and now it’s here … SB 1392.
SB 1392 has so many bad provisions that it’s hard to know where to start, but here are a few of them:
- The bill abolishes the requirement that groundwater conservation districts balance production (i.e. pumping) with conservation. Instead, the bill establishes pumping and exporting groundwater as a priority for the state and for the so-called “groundwater conservation districts” (whose ability to conserve groundwater will be effectively abolished).
- It prevents groundwater conservation districts from considering the socioeconomic impacts of the “desired future conditions” they set (DFCs are how much they plan to drain the aquifer). The bill effectively pretends that drawing down our aquifers – which is nothing more or less than mining this vital resource – doesn’t have social and economic impacts on the communities that live above them. …
Make an impact on local food laws by joining us at the State Capitol for our second Local Foods Awareness Day this Session: Monday, May 1. Be on the front lines as we educate legislators about the issues important to our movement.
FARFA’s Local Foods Awareness Day
Monday, May 1, 2017, 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. See the detailed agenda at the end of this page. (If you missed our training webinar and this is your first time to attend, please join us at 9:30 for a brief training session.)
PLACE: Legislative Conference Center, Room E1.004, Capitol Extension, Texas Capitol, Austin (See map here.)
PARKING: Reasonably priced parking is available at the Visitors Parking Lot, San Jacinto Blvd., between 12th and 13th streets. (See map here.)
If you are a farmer, telling your stories can be the most effective way to gain legislative support for our bills!…
The 2017 Texas legislative session is in full swing, and FARFA is busy trying to pass good bills and kill bad ones! Check out the summaries of our top-priority bills, including water bills that will affect the future of every Texan.
Priority Bills to Pass
Young Farmers & Military Veterans: SB 330/ HB 950 would allow young, beginning farmers and veterans going into farming to qualify for agricultural valuation with reduced property taxes in their first year of farming, instead of waiting for five years under the current law. Over a third of all farmers are over age 65, making it vital to remove barriers to young farmers entering this career path. Read more and take action here.
Raw Milk: Licensed farmers can legally sell raw milk in Texas, but sales are limited to on-the-farm. This marketing restriction does not increase the safety of the product, but rather places unnecessary burdens on farmers and consumers.…
Do you think that city and county governments should be able to:
- Protect farmers from having their crops damaged or destroyed due to herbicide drift?
- Protect bee populations by limiting whether or when seeds coated with bee-killing chemicals can be planted?
- Protect the health of the community’s children by limiting spraying of certain toxic chemicals?
- Respond to concerns that their citizens raise in the future about what is grown and how it is grown in their communities?
If you think that Texans should be able to seek solutions for these sorts of problems from their local elected officials, then you need to call your State Representative right now and urge him or her to oppose SB 1172 / HB 2758.
(updated April 1, 2017)
SB 1172/ HB 2758 would prevent cities and counties from regulating any seed “in any manner, including planting seed or cultivating plants grown from seed.” The language about “cultivating” means that it’s not just about the seeds themselves, but the things the farmers use to grow the plants – including fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides that can kill other crops, crash bee populations, and harm human health. …