Harris County putting raw milk courier on trial

A Texas woman faces a criminal misdemeanor charge for picking up milk from a farm and delivering it to individuals who asked her to do so.

The harassment of raw milk couriers was initiated by the Texas Department of State Health Services this summer – yet DSHS has now stated that it will not pursue raw milk consumers or the people they hire as agents to pick up milk for them. (Read more here)

But Harris County is still pressing forward with the trial to prosecute this courier.

The County has been given the written agreement, signed by individual customers, in which they made the woman their agent and asked her to pick up milk on their behalf from a licensed, inspected dairy.  Not one customer has gotten sick and no one has complained.

People pick up groceries for each other all the time.  Every day, FedEx and UPS deliver food ordered online. …

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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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The Demise of the Trans-Pacific Partnership

A broad range of family farm and local food proponents, progressive groups and tea partiers, advocates for labor, the environment, and national sovereignty, and more, had planned a massive call-in effort this week to fight against the Obama Administration’s last-ditch effort to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership during the lame duck session – and it appears that we have won without needing this final push!

tpp deniedToday Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and other TPP opponents within Congress held a press conference to discuss the end of the trade partnership and what that means for the future of international trade. And late last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) separately announced that no action would be taken within either House to push a vote on the TPP.  While President Obama has not publicly conceded, it is apparent that the deal is dead for now.

The grassroots opposition to the TPP can be traced back to June 2010, when advocates for small farmers, labor, consumers, and other movements began to raise concerns about the secretive negotiations.…

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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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Setting the Record Straight on Raw Milk Illnesses

As published in a recent Austin American-Statesman article, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) is now claiming that there were two small outbreaks of foodborne illness linked to raw milk in the spring of 2015. But this is the first time in the year and a half since the outbreaks happened that the agency has said anything about them. The article raises far more questions than it answers.

Here’s what typically happens when two or more people get sick from a foodborne illness:

The investigating authority first asks each person to list everything they ate or drank in the days before they got sick. As you can imagine, people’s recollection is often incomplete, especially when they’re sick. So the lists may or may not include the food product that had the bacteria. If the health department is able to identify a common food consumed by each of the affected persons, they then attempt to trace the food product to the farm or food manufacturer where it was produced.…

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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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The TPP Fight Is Here

President Obama has just officially put Congress on notice that the TPP is coming.  To try to counter the opposition to this terrible trade agreement, the Administration is planning more than 30 high-profile events with cabinet members before the end of the month to push members of Congress to support the TPP.

But the momentum is on our side, and we have to keep it that way!  Obama has acknowledged that he cannot get a vote to approve the TPP until after the elections because it is such a political hot button topic.  We need to tell our legislators that we expect them to stay consistent and vote against the TPP after the election, as well as saying they’re against it before.

This two-thousand page document would set the rules for all the countries in it – including the U.S. – on agriculture, food, intellectual property and patents, banking, and more.…

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FARFA Board President Explains Why He Farms Sustainably

Tom and Janice Henslee produce real food on healthy soil at their 110-acre farm outside Ashboro, N.C. Tom, who serves as president of FARFA’s Board of Directors, raises pasture-based cows on his Back to Earth Farm. The Henslees’ farm is featured in this video produced by People-First Tourism Lab, a company that aims to entice the public to eat at local restaurants and visit the farms that supply them.

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FARFA: Fighting for Small Farms and Ranches

Originally published in Edible Houston and reprinted in Edible DFW

by Pamela Walker

notableFarfa

Reforming farm-and-food policy isn’t everyone’s cup of kombucha. In fact, most people find policy work downright unappetizing, much as they do sausage making, to which the legislative process is proverbially compared. But if we like our local kombucha and sausages and want local food production to grow, we must press for policy and regulatory reform beneficial to independent family farmers and their customers. Fortunately, we have Judith McGeary, founder and executive director of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA), doing much of the dirty work and opening ways for us to provide effective support. Joining FARFA is a good place to start.

Judith, a central Texas rancher with a biology degree from Stanford and a law degree from the University of Texas, has made FARFA a real force in influencing policy and regulations at the state and national levels.…

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