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.

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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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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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Texas Raw Milk Trial Delayed

Thank you to everyone who made plans to attend the Harris County raw milk trial on December 14 –  but it’s now been delayed until April.

The delay appears to be part of continued harassment by the Harris County health department. There’s no legal reason that this case shouldn’t go to trial this week – yet they asked for a 4-month continuance, leaving the charges hanging over the head of the courier and raw milk customers.

Rather than face the likelihood of a dismissal by the judge or an acquittal by the jury, the County apparently prefers to be able to continue making threats about additional penalties and fines on baseless charges.

We don’t plan to just sit around until April. Stay tuned for actions you can take, coming soon!

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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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