HB 1926: The Homemade Foods Bill

Expanding opportunities for local food producers

 

Home Canned Green BeansDuring 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.…

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Time to Push for Passage of TX Raw Milk Bill!

(Updated 5/4/2017)

raw milk sign on state mapThe Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee will hold a hearing on SB 95, the raw milk bill, on Wednesday, May 3. 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 SB 95! This bill benefits rural economies because direct farm-to-consumer sales of raw milk can mean the difference between a net loss on the farm and a reasonable income for the farm family.

Raw Milk Bill Information

Raw milk is already legal in Texas.…

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2017 Texas Legislative Session

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.

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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.…

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Texas Raw Milk Victory – October 2016

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!

Background:

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.…

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A Full Agenda for the 2017 Session: The Issues to Watch

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.

Property Taxes

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.

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Texas Update: FARFA’s Current Work on Local Food Issues

It’s been a busy summer for local food issues in Texas, between the ongoing developments in the state’s health department crackdown on raw milk, the state’s adoption of new federal food safety regulations, and laying the groundwork for a slate of bills for next year’s Legislative Session.

As we head into the fall, here’s a quick summary of where things stand:

cows-on-pasture-enhancedRaw Milk

As we’ve alerted you before, the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) worked with local health departments and law enforcement to disrupt private groups’ distribution of raw milk earlier this spring and summer. The courier for a Harris County-area group was issued a citation and had to appear in court on August 24. (Background available here.)

FARFA Executive Director Judith McGeary attended the Harris County hearing, during which the courier (who was cited for operating an unlicensed retail food establishment) was represented by a criminal attorney provided by the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund.…

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Tell Texas Legislators to Hold Health Department Accountable

As we alerted you earlier this summer, the Texas Department of State Health Services has undertaken a campaign of aggressive enforcement against raw milk farmers and their customers.

This situation poses many problems for local food producers and consumers – whether you drink raw milk or not:

  • The use of law enforcement to intimidate consumers.
  • Changing the enforcement of the law based on a change in agency personnel – even though nothing has changed in the regulations and no illnesses have occurred.
  • Government harassment of producers based on complaints filed by competitors, not the public.

We’re already seeing the latter two cropping up with other types of local foods (although not as dramatically as with the raw milk busts).
This needs to stop. The health departments should be focusing on actual health risks, not using complaints from competitors as excuses to harass small local farmers and their customers.

FARFA’s been active in developing legal arguments, talking with agency officials and legislative staffers, consulting with the farmers, and more.…

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Harassment of Raw Milk Customers Continues

 

During the Independence Day weekend, the Harris County Health Department pulled Sheriff’s deputies away from a domestic dispute in order to bust a raw milk drop point.

This raid targeted adults who were picking up raw milk, purchased from a licensed, inspected farm, using a courier that they hired. To the Health Department, this apparently is a greater public concern than addressing domestic violence.

The Health Department refused to allow people to take the milk for which they had already paid, and issued a citation to the courier, ordering her to appear in court next month.

Just as in the similar incident in Austin, the department’s claim was that the courier needed to have a food establishment license, as is required of restaurants, food stores, and food trucks, for example. But if this is really what the law means, then UPS, FedEx, UberEats and other restaurant delivery services, CSA drop points, and volunteers organizing bulk purchases of any food are all operating illegally.…

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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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