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.
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 bee-killing pesticides can be sprayed?
- Protect the health of the community’s children by limiting spraying of certain toxic chemicals near schools?
- 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 and Senator right now and urge them to oppose SB 1172 / HB 2758.
SB 1172 by Senator Perry and HB 2758 by Representative Geren 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.…
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. …
Helping aspiring farmers to afford land
The Young and Military Veterans Tax Relief bills (HB 950 and SB 330) help address the problem of our aging farmer population by allowing young beginning farmers and military veterans to qualify for agricultural valuation on their land after one year of farming, instead of having to pay high taxes while waiting for five years.
The Senate Finance Committee heard testimony on March 14 – thanks to those of you who appeared – and voted 13-2 to move the bill forward!
A growing number of young people and military veterans aspire to become farmers, but many lack the capital to begin.
High property taxes represent a major start-up cost for new farmers. Texas law provides that land used primarily for raising food is taxed on its “agricultural value” rather than its development value. But not only must the land be used principally for agriculture, it must have been used that way for at least 5 of the preceding 7 years.…
Clarifying the definition of “agricultural use” for tax valuation
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.
HB 231 and SB 700, the Fair Taxes for Small Farmers bill, provides for fair, consistent application of agricultural valuation. Last session, a very similar bill (HB 1900) was passed by the House by a vote of 135-4.
The Tax Code provides that land be appraised as qualified agricultural land if it is “devoted principally to agricultural use to the degree of intensity generally accepted in the area.” Unfortunately, many county appraisal districts have applied the provision in ways that exclude legitimate farms.
HB 231 and SB 700 have slightly different language, but both clarify the Tax Code by:
- Specifying that fruit and vegetable production qualify as “agricultural uses.” There have been multiple cases of county tax assessors asserting that growing vegetables isn’t agriculture, or applying guidelines developed for row crops instead of vegetable production so as to exclude them. …
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.
FARFA’s Local Foods Awareness Day
Thursday, March 9, 2017, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. See the detailed agenda at the end of this page. (If you are unable to be there for the entire day, please come when you can!)
PLACE: Legislative Conference Center, Room E2.002, 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 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.
Or download fact sheets on all of the bills for more in-depth information.
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.…
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. …