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 bee-killing pesticides can be sprayed?
  • Protect the health of the community’s children by limiting spraying of certain toxic chemicals near schools?
  • 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 and Senator right now and urge them to oppose SB 1172 / HB 2758.

The bill was filed late in the session, yet has already been set for a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on Monday, March 20! The Biotech and Big Ag companies clearly want to push this bill through before people even notice – and we cannot let that happen!

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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 Senate Finance Committee heard testimony on March 14 – thanks to those of you who appeared – and voted 13-2 to move the bill forward!

Download our Fact Sheet on SB 330

A growing number of young people and military veterans aspire to become farmers, but many lack the capital to begin.

High property taxes represent a major start-up cost for new farmers. Texas law provides that land used primarily for raising food is taxed on its “agricultural value” rather than its development value. 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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Time to Push for Passage of TX Raw Milk Bill!

House Committees for the 2017 Session of the Texas Legislature have been named, and now is the time to make sure all the House Public Health Committee members are asked to support the Raw Milk Bill, HB 57.

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 HB 57!

Raw Milk Bill Information

Raw milk is already legal in Texas. There are 45 licensed Grade A Raw for Retail dairies, which are regularly inspected and the milk tested using the same (or higher) standards as for milk in the grocery stores.…

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FARFA’s Local Foods Awareness Day 2017

Make an impact on local food laws by joining us at the State Capitol on Thursday, March 9. 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

Thursday, March 9, 2017, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.  See the detailed agenda at the end of this page. (If you are unable to be there for the entire day, please come when you can!)

PLACE: Legislative Conference Center, Room E2.002, 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.)

LUNCH: We will provide lunch (Donations to cover the cost are very much appreciated!)              green donate button

 

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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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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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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