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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Raw Milk Situation Continues to Develop

Snapshot of Austin milk raidIn the wake of the raid on a raw milk drop point in Austin just before Memorial Day Weekend (pictured at right), we’ve received many questions about what happened – and what happens next.

There are four core points. (Click on each point to jump to details.)

  1. Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance stands behind the raw milk farms and the customers who have set up legal group distribution points.
  2. The recent raid appears to be due to a combination of an industry complainant and “rogue” bureaucrats.
  3. If government agents visit your home, you have legal rights and can choose how to proceed.
  4. YOU can make a difference!

 


WE STAND BEHIND
RAW MILK PRODUCERS AND CONSUMERS

Texas allows the purchase of Grade A raw milk only when purchased directly from the farmer at the place of production. For years, raw milk customers have cooperated to pick up each other’s milk and save a lot of time and gas – benefiting us all by reducing vehicle miles, traffic, and air pollution from unnecessary driving.…

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Raw Milk Pickup Shut Down by State & City Agents

Health departments in Texas have stepped up their attacks on the public’s right to purchase food directly from farmers, resorting to bringing the police to harass and intimidate local raw milk customers.

That’s what happened to one group of raw milk customers in Austin recently. On May 26, they went to a private home to meet the courier that they had hired to pick up their milk, and were met by four inspectors from the City of Austin Health Department and Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS). An unmarked police car pulled into the driveway, blocking the raw milk van and a customer’s car – with her children in it – and two policemen emerged.

The inspectors proceeded to tell the customers that they could not take possession of the milk, ignoring protests that they had already paid for that milk. The inspectors also ignored the statement from the courier that he had a signed agreement with the customers making him their agent – and instead falsely wrote on the inspection report that the courier worked for the farmer.…

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Texas Water Fights – Round Two

In the last Texas legislative session, legislators proposed a California-style scheme of massive water transfers around the state.  FARFA played a key role in defeating the proposed bill, but the issue is far from dead.  Legislators who see nothing wrong in using the power of the government to take water and land away from rural areas to promote unrestrained urban growth — at the expense of the children and grandchildren of both rural and urban areas — are already looking ahead to the 2017 legislative session.

On February 2, 2016, the House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing about water marketing. Click here for FARFA’s post-hearing press release.

Out of the dozen invited witnesses, not a single one represented agricultural interests.

cracked land and green lawn-1

FARFA’s executive director, Judith McGeary, submitted written testimony and testified briefly during the public testimony portion of the hearing.

During the hearing, Representative Lyle Larson (R-San Antonio) repeatedly claimed that the current system wasn’t working because some areas and landowners would not agree to sell their water for export. …

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Texas 2016 Primary Endorsements

It’s time for the Texas Primary Elections! Early voting begins on February 16 and runs through February 26. Election Day is on March 1, 2016

FARFA endorses the following candidates based on their positions on food and agricultural issues, as well as closely related issues such as water rights and use. FARFA’s endorsement does not constitute an endorsement of the candidates’ positions on other issues.

As you will see, FARFA is only endorsing two candidates in the primaries (one Democrat and one Republican). Obviously, this is not a comprehensive list of good candidates! We decided to endorse in these two specific races because they are hotly contested and there is a candidate with a strong record on our issues. We want to also recognize some of the legislators who were local food champions last session.

Huey Fischer for State Representative for District 49 in AustinHuey-Fischer

FARFA endorses Huey Fischer in the Democratic Primary for House District 49, which was previously held by Representative Naishtat.…

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Texas Legislative Report

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. 

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Texas Legislative update

May 26, 2015:

With less than one week left in the Texas legislative session, things have been moving quickly.  We will do a thorough update after the session ends, but here are the current highlights:texas capitol

Good news:

* 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. …

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Raw milk bill gets a Senate committee hearing!

 

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!

COMMITTEE:    Intergovernmental RelationsCitizen Lobby Day 2013
TIME & DATE:  8:30 AM, Monday, May 25, 2015
PLACE:        E1.028

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. …

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Fair property tax bill needs your calls!

 

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.

 

Take Action

Update 5/20: The  Senate committee hearing went very well!  …

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Two bills – one good, one bad – get committee hearings

 

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. 

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Texas House to vote on a “Sound science” resolution

 

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)

 

TAKE ACTION

Call or email your State Representative to urge him or her to vote NO on HR 1508.…

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