FARFA’s Local Foods Awareness Day 2017

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.

Read More About the 2017 Local Food Bills

 

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!…

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Protect Local Control — Stop SB 1172/ HB 2758

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?

Man spraying vegetables in the garden

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.

Download our Fact Sheet on 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. …

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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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HB 950 / SB 330: Tax Relief for Young and Veteran Farmers

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 on March 29, and had a very positive hearing before the House Agriculture Committee on April 13, but now seems to have stalled out.  PLEASE help us move this important bill forward!

Download our Fact Sheet on SB 330

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.…

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HB 231 / SB 700: Fair Property Taxes for Small Farmers

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:

  1. 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.

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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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East Austin Urban Farm Tour 2017

With Proceeds Benefiting FARFAPrint

The annual East Austin Urban Farm Tour on Sunday, April 9, is a “sip, eat, and stroll event” that takes place on four working urban farms: Boggy Creek Farm, Hausbar Farms, Rain Lily Farm, and Springdale Farm.

All four farms, which are within walking/biking distance of each other, will offer chances to get to know the farmers and their animals plus learn how they grow healthy foods for the Austin community. And each farm will feature bites and sips of delicious samplings from local chefs, mixologists, brewers, and wine merchants.

Proceeds from ticket sales are donated to Farm & Ranch Freedom Alliance so we can continue our work to advocate for small-scale farmers and ranchers. Tickets go on sale in early March, so keep checking the Farm Tour website to order yours in advance.

This year’s East Austin Farm Tour is presented by Farmhouse Delivery and sponsored by Lisa Muñoz Realty Austin and Big Wheelbarrow with support from Wheatsville Co-op, Austin Brewery Tours, and Break It Down.

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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.

TXontop-thale

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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Time to Roll Back Regulations!

If you’ve followed FARFA’s work for any length of time, you know that a large part of our mission is to eliminate the burdensome regulations standing in the way of small-scale farmers, ranchers, and their customers.

us-capitol-west-front-inauguration-2009-barack-obamaWe’ve taken a hard look at our options with the imminent changes coming to Washington, DC. The prevailing message sent by voters in November was that they want less government interference and greater protection for American businesses. This is an ideal time to ask for significant changes to the regulations most damaging to independent farmers.

FARFA has an excellent track record of bipartisanship, with support from both liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans.  Our focus on practical, real-world solutions for small farmers means that our policy initiatives are not tied to any political philosophy.  So, in response to this opportunity, FARFA will be submitting a report to the incoming Administration, identifying specific reforms that will help small farmers and local food producers without compromising the public health or safety.…

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