Texas Local Foods

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.

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Hearings the week of April 27th

The Texas Legislature is in full swing, and there are multiple bill hearings this week that could affect family farmers and local food consumers.  If you can come by the Capitol for 15 minutes to register for one of the good bills, or against one of the bad bills, it really does make a difference!

Information on all the bills we’re tracking, good and bad, is provided after the list of this week’s hearings.

Tuesday, April 28 – milk hauler permit hearing

A subcommittee will hear HB 3129, by Representative Ken King, which would require a permit for vehicles transporting milk.  If this bill only applied to bulk milk haulers, we would have no objection.  But there is no such limitation in the bill, which means it could require a permit from someone who is transporting a few dozen gallons of milk for a group of raw milk consumers, or a small farmer bringing low-temp pasteurized milk to a farmers’ market.…

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Save our water – Save our future

A bill to study how to create a “statewide marketing and conveyance grid” for water is moving through the Texas Legislature quickly, and we need your help to stop it!

In practical terms, this approach 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.  Many Texans could easily cut their water usage in half – or much lower – without any real hardship.
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?

Water transfers just postpone the day of reckoning.  At some point, Texans will need to take serious steps to conserve water.  Shouldn’t we do that before we start shipping water all over the state?

Consider the fact that San Antonio recently signed a contract to build a 140-mile pipeline to transfer large amounts of groundwater from some of the best farmland in our state, draining the aquifer under Burleson and Milam Counties.  And at the same time, the city is negotiating a deal to have some of the water bottled for sale.…

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“Sound science” resolution to be heard in Committee

 

Using “sound 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.…

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Pass fair property taxes for small farmers!

 

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.

Texas statutory law provides for “agricultural valuation” of land used primarily for raising food, lowering property taxes for farmers.  But local counties authorities have unfairly excluded some small farmers  due to bias against sustainable farming methods, urban farms, and even vegetable production!

HB 1900 by Representative Eddie Rodriguez and SB 1581 by Senator Zaffirini provide for fair, consistent application of agricultural valuation for all types of farmers.  The bills:

  1. Specify 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.
  2. 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.

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Texas legislative update

April 11, 2015:  The Texas legislative session is heating up, and the next eight weeks are going to be extremely busy.  You won’t be able to act on every alert, but please do take action as often and in whatever way you can.  Your voice DOES matter!

This week, we have good news, bad news, and multiple ways you can help fight for local farmers.

Good News

Three good bills have Committee hearings scheduled for next week!

HB 184judicial-system6, by Representative Susan King, requires Texas state agencies to be open and transparent in implementing new federal food safety regulations.  The FDA is working on massive new regulations and has already announced that it plans to rely heavily on state agencies to implement them.  HB 1846 requires the  Department of State Health Services and the Department of Agriculture to publish notice of any proposed agreement with FDA, allow for public comment, and consult with key legislators.…

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Fair property tax bill gets a hearing on Wednesday, April 8th!

We have been working hard on a wide range of bills to help local farmers and local food producers.  Next week, the first of our bills will be heard by Committee — the first step in getting it passed!

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.  The issue is also critical for nonprofit community gardens that are trying to provide healthy food for low-income communities.

There are multiple ways you can help, whether you have just a few minutes to call, can stop by the Capitol for 15 minutes, or can stay through the whole hearing.  Your efforts — combined with those of farmers and consumers across the state — really do make a difference!

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Texas Honey Bills

 

The Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA) supports both HB3764/ SB1766 and the inclusion of honey in the Home Processors Bill, HB 2600.  Each bill, by itself, is an improvement over the current law.  And if both bills pass, they will complement each other by creating a framework under which:

  1. micro-producers could sell small quantities of honey that they or their immediate family members produce directly to consumers without any substantive regulation (HB 3764/ SB 1766), and
  2. small-scale producers who wish to operate beyond those limitations would be able to sell honey processed in their home kitchens under reasonable, scale-sensitive regulations (HB 2600).

 

There is no conflict between the Home Processors Bill and HB 3764/ SB 1766.  Indeed, the relationship between the two is very similar to the relationship between the cottage food law and the home processors bill.  If both bills pass this session, there will be one tier of extremely small honey-processing activity that would be essentially unregulated, and a second broader tier of honey-processing activity that will be allowed in home kitchens subject to a moderate level of regulation.…

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Support local foods in Texas

 

March 23, 2015: The Texas Legislature is kicking into high gear, and we have some great bills that will help local farmers and food producers bring you more of the delicious local foods you want!

Seven bills have been introduced to eliminate barriers for local farmers and artisan food producers, including bills to:

  • allow the sale of more foods produced in home kitchensFighting for Food Freedom
  • reduce property taxes for sustainable farmers, urban farms, and community gardens
  • expand where raw milk can be sold
  • increase agency accountability and responsiveness to small farmers’ concerns
  • require the labeling of genetically engineered foods

More information on each bill is at the end of this alert.

Will you help us get these important bills passed?  

TAKE ACTION

The legislators need to hear from YOU!  The chance of any of these bills passing this session depends heavily on the voice of committed Texans. It only takes a few minutes to contact your legislator, and it really does make a difference.…

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GMO labeling bill filed in Texas!

Texas State Representative Carol Alvarado has filed a bill to require the labeling of foods containing genetically engineered ingredients.   If passed, this bill would mean Texans would finally know which foods in the grocery stores have genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Just filing this bill in a state with massive agribusiness and biotech industries is a major step!  But there is a very, very long road between filing the bill and getting it passed.

Will you help us fight for your right to know what’s in your food?

 

TAKE ACTION

1.     Call your State Representative and urge him or her to co-author HB 3499.

Call the Capitol Switchboard at 512-463-4630 or go to www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us  to find out who your State Representative is.

When you call, identify yourself as a constituent and ask to speak to the staffer who handles food issues.  Be brief and polite.  You can pull some talking points from our fact sheet, but don’t try to cover all of it – focus on why this issue is important to you.…

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Texas Legislative Update

 

Local foods are a hot topic in the 2015 Texas legislative session!  FARFA has seven bills that have been filed to help to grow the local food movement, making it easier for farmers to make a fair living and for consumers to access high-quality local foods!

Please contact your State Representative and State Senator and urge them to co-author the bills listed below.  You can find out who represents you at:

You can download one-page fact sheets for each bill by clicking the “more information” link at the end of each paragraph.

We are also tracking several more good bills on issues related to agriculture, water, and eminent domain, as well as several bad bills.  Please check out our additional bills list below, after the description of our top priority bills.

FARFA’s Priority Bills to Support

HB 91, by Representative Dan Flynn, would expand access to raw milk.

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