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.
Over 6,000 bills were filed in the 84th Texas Legislative Session, creating a massive challenge even to monitor which ones could impact family farmers and local food producers. Getting good bills passed meant fighting heavy odds; only about 1,300 bills actually passed and were signed by the Governor.
The local food movement achieved some important victories, both in passing good bills and in fighting bad ones, on issues ranging from community gardens to water. There were also several disappointments, and many challenges left to work on during the next year and a half in preparation for the next session. Each year, we build more strength to work for the changes we need.
Note: We have included the names, parties, and hometowns of all the legislators who sponsored these bills — both good and bad. If your Representative or Senator is listed, please take a moment to call or email their offices and thank them or express your disappointment, as appropriate. It’s important that the legislators know that their constituents are paying attention and will remember their actions.…
May 26, 2015:
* HB 1846, the bill that requires the state health department to publish notice of any agreements with FDA to implement federal food safety regulations, unanimously passed the Senate today and is on its way to the Governor. This bill will provide important transparency and accountability in how the new regulations under the federal Food Safety Modernization Action are implemented in Texas.
* HB 262, to provide liability protection for landowners who allow their land to be used for community gardens, also unanimously passed the Senate today and is on its way to the Governor. This bill would improve access to land for community gardens by addressing landowners’ concerns about potential lawsuits.
* HB 3298/ SB 1907, the water grid bill that we opposed, is dead as a stand-alone bill. Moreover, we appear to have successfully blocked the efforts to push it through as an amendment to other bills. Although nothing is guaranteed until the very end, it looks very likely that this plan to lay the groundwork for massive water marketing and conveyances is dead for this session.…
The raw milk bill, HB 91, has been scheduled for a Senate Committee hearing on Monday morning! Time is running out fast to get the bill passed by the Senate, so we need help one last time to get this important bill passed.
TAKE ACTION #1: Come to the hearing
Start your Memorial Day with a short trip to the Capitol. If you can stay to watch the hearing, great. But even if you can only come for a few minutes to register in support, that helps a lot!
Enter the main Capitol building, take the elevators down to floor E1, and walk all the way down the main hallway until just past the second rotunda. Room E1.028 is on your right. Look for the stack of 1/2 page cards on a table ; if they’re out, ask the clerk. Fill out the card, sign it, and hand it back to the clerk. Then either grab a seat to watch or head out.…
The issue of property taxes, while not fun, is vital for many farmers. Small farmers who have been denied agricultural valuation of their land face thousands of extra dollars in extra taxes — a cost that they cannot readily absorb with their narrow profit margins.
Under Texas law, land that is primarily used for agriculture is supposed to qualify for lower taxes, known as “agricultural valuation.” “Agricultural use” is defined broadly, yet many local county appraisal districts have applied it in a restrictive, narrow manner that is not consistent with the legislative language or intent. Under these restrictive applications, counties have imposed higher taxes on many people whose primary use of their lands include:
- vegetable farms,
- urban farms, and
- sustainable diversified farms.
HB1900 seeks to clarify the statute so that these farms qualify for the agricultural valuation that they are entitled to.
Update 5/20: The Senate committee hearing went very well!…
Two bills are scheduled for committee hearings on Monday, May 18. If you can make it to the Capitol on Monday, please come register on these bills! The witness lists really do make a difference, and it’s quick and easy to do. Just come, sign it at the kiosks in the Capitol, register your position, and then go on with your day. All of the details are below.
Both hearings are scheduled to begin at 2 pm or upon adjournment of the House & Senate. Generally, the witness registration will open no later than 1 pm (and often by noon), and will stay open until the bills are heard. Based on how the schedules have been recently, our best estimate is that the registration will stay open until at least 4 pm, if not later.
Note: it may seem confusing, but the House Bill (HB 3298) is being heard by the Senate Ag Committee, while the Senate bill (SB 474) is being heard by the House Land & Resource Mgmt Committee. That’s because each bill has already been approved by the chamber in which they were originally filed, and have now moved over to the other chamber. Just make sure to have the information below with you when you register.…
Using science to address agricultural issues is vital. But due to the money and power of large companies with vested interests, the studies that are conducted on agricultural technologies, from GMOs to pesticides, are often deeply flawed. Scientists who want to conduct impartial studies are often blocked by a lack of funding, or outright attacked if their study results contradict the industry’s position.
The Texas House of Representatives is considering a resolution, HR 1508, that opposes any regulation of GMOs, pesticides, or other “modern agricultural technologies” except when based on “sound science.” The premise of the resolution is that these technologies are the key to an abundant, safe food supply — a premise that is contradicted by multiple studies and reports. The full text of the resolution is below.
We need support for independent, objective studies on these issues — not a blind vote of confidence in the industry.
HR 1508 will be voted on by the Texas House on MONDAY, May 18 (the originally scheduled vote was delayed)
Call or email your State Representative to urge him or her to vote NO on HR 1508.…
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.
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!…
The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) is proposing new regulations for all businesses that sell or serve food directly to consumers, termed “food establishments.” The proposed regulations will apply to farmers’ market vendors, on-farm events, temporary fundraising events, restaurants, caterers, home delivery services, grocers, co-ops, and more. The only exceptions are for people selling only uncut fruits and vegetables, cottage food producers, and places offering only pre-packaged shelf-stable foods.
Food establishments are already regulated, and the existing regulations have often caused problems for small farmers, local food producers, and locally sourcing restaurants. Several provisions in these new proposed regulations, incorporating requirements from the FDA’s “model food code,” make the situation worse.
The agency is accepting comments on the proposal — please speak up now to help local food producers! More information on the regulations is posted at the end of this page, after the sample letter.
MAIL: Christopher Sparks, Environmental and Consumer Safety Section, Division of Regulatory Services, Department of State Health Services, Mail Code, 1987, P.…
May 11, 2015: Four good local food bills have passed the House of Representatives! We have just a few weeks to get them through the Senate in order to become law:
- HB 91, which would expand legal access to raw milk by allowing licensed farmers to sell at farmers’ markets and make delivery arrangements with consumers
- HB 1900, which would provide fair property tax treatment for small farmers, vegetables farmers, and diversified farms
- HB 262, which would limit liability for landowners who allow their property to be used for community gardens, increasing access to land
- HB 1846, which would require transparency in the state’s implementation of new federal food safety regulations
At the same time, the massive water marketing bill that we oppose has also passed the House and is moving through the Senate, where we will continue to fight to stop it.
Thank you to everyone who has already taken action! Your voice truly does make a difference, and we’ve come a long way already. Will you help us keep fighting for our farmers and our food system in this final month of the session?…
The raw milk bill, HB 91, has been scheduled for a vote this Thursday, May 7! This is the first time the Texas House of Representatives will debate the issue of raw milk. This is going to be a tough fight, and we need everyone to speak up. Even if you have called before, please take a minute to make a call now to support expanding legal access to raw milk in Texas!
Call or email your State Representative to urge him or her to vote YES on HB 91
You can find out who your State Representative is 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 Representative ______ to vote YES on HB 91, the raw milk bill, when it comes to the floor this Thursday.”
MORE INFORMATION ABOUT HB 91, Raw Milk
Download our fact sheet here
HB 91 by Representative Dan Flynn would legalize the sale of raw milk by licensed farmers directly to consumers at farmers markets, and allow farmers and consumers to agree to delivery arrangements.…