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.
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.
But HB 1643 would mean that, instead of facing fines, people who take drone pictures of CAFOs could go to jail.…
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.
- It removes the public interest in conserving and protecting groundwater from the districts’ list of factors to consider. …
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. …
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 bill passed the Senate last month, and had a great hearing before the House Agriculture Committee two weeks ago, but now seems to have stalled out. PLEASE help us move this important bill forward!
High property taxes represent a major start-up cost for new farmers. Texas law provides that land used primarily for raising food is taxed at a lower rate, 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.…