SB 656: An Agriculture and Rural Ombudsman

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.

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