Texas Legislators Hold Water Hearings

Do you have views about Texas’ water resources that you’d like to share with state legislators? Now is your chance. Two committees are each holding interim hearings next Thursday, October 13, providing the perfect opportunity to share your experience and beliefs.

HEARING ONE: The House Agriculture Committee hearing will meet Thursday morning, starting at 9 am, to hear testimony on the following topic:

“Determine the sources of water used by Texans in the production of food and fiber, and examine the current water delivery methods and water conservation goals for agricultural use. Evaluate whether there are more efficient and effective water-usage management practices that could be employed in the agricultural industry, and determine the impact of crop insurance requirements on producers.”

HEARING TWO: The House Natural Resources Committee will start its hearing at 1 pm and cover several topics, the most important of which is to “examine the regional and state water planning process.”

The committee will focus on multiple aspects of the water plan, including the “interaction between the planning process and groundwater management” and “whether the ‘drought of record’ remains the appropriate benchmark for planning.”

Have you tried to be involved with the planning process and run into barriers?…

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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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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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Tell President Obama to Veto the DARK Act!

As you may have heard, the Senate voted last week to approve the Roberts-Stabenow version of the DARK Act.  The next step is that it goes back to the House (since it’s very different from the version the House approved last summer) and then on to President Obama.

This bill would be more accurately termed an UNlabeling bill.  It has huge loopholes, no enforcement mechanisms, and a two-year delay before anything happens – except that it immediately overrides state laws that are already in place.

This is not a “compromise” on labeling – it is effectively a ban on GMO labeling, in disguise.

We expect the House to vote this week. Given that the earlier version of the DARK Act passed by a large margin, and that the House sponsor has said he’ll support the Senate version, it will almost certainly pass the House.

The bill could be on the President’s desk before the end of this week.

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Harassment of Raw Milk Customers Continues


During the Independence Day weekend, the Harris County Health Department pulled Sheriff’s deputies away from a domestic dispute in order to bust a raw milk drop point.

This raid targeted adults who were picking up raw milk, purchased from a licensed, inspected farm, using a courier that they hired. To the Health Department, this apparently is a greater public concern than addressing domestic violence.

The Health Department refused to allow people to take the milk for which they had already paid, and issued a citation to the courier, ordering her to appear in court next month.

Just as in the similar incident in Austin, the department’s claim was that the courier needed to have a food establishment license, as is required of restaurants, food stores, and food trucks, for example. But if this is really what the law means, then UPS, FedEx, UberEats and other restaurant delivery services, CSA drop points, and volunteers organizing bulk purchases of any food are all operating illegally.…

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URGENT: Senate expected to vote on GMO labeling on Wednesday

The closer we look at the Roberts-Stabenow bill on GMO labeling, the worse it gets. It’s so bad that even the FDA – which asserts that GMOs are “substantially equivalent” to conventional foods — has criticized it!  The bill’s biggest flaws:

  • No on-package label required – the companies can put a QR code, phone number, or website, which provides no real information for someone shopping for food.
  • No federal enforcement penalties. If the companies fail to comply with even this minimal requirement, there’s no mechanism for the federal government to enforce the law.
  • Massive loopholes in definition of genetically engineered and what will have to be labeled.
  • And it pre-empts all state laws that would require on-package labeling.


This is not a “compromise” on labeling – it is effectively a ban on GMO labeling, in disguise.

Vermont’s law went into effect last Friday, July 1. Most food manufacturers came into compliance well in advance.…

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Raw Milk Situation Continues to Develop

Snapshot of Austin milk raidIn the wake of the raid on a raw milk drop point in Austin just before Memorial Day Weekend (pictured at right), we’ve received many questions about what happened – and what happens next.

There are four core points. (Click on each point to jump to details.)

  1. Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance stands behind the raw milk farms and the customers who have set up legal group distribution points.
  2. The recent raid appears to be due to a combination of an industry complainant and “rogue” bureaucrats.
  3. If government agents visit your home, you have legal rights and can choose how to proceed.
  4. YOU can make a difference!



Texas allows the purchase of Grade A raw milk only when purchased directly from the farmer at the place of production. For years, raw milk customers have cooperated to pick up each other’s milk and save a lot of time and gas – benefiting us all by reducing vehicle miles, traffic, and air pollution from unnecessary driving.…

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Key Senators Cave In to Monsanto

Yesterday, Senator Roberts (R-KS) and Senator Stabenow (D-MI) announced a deal to bring Monsanto’s dream bill to the Senate floor. Your Senators will vote as soon as next week.

To put it bluntly, the final bill is terrible. This so-called “compromise” simply hands Monsanto and Big Food corporations a complete victory.

Instead of on-package labels, the bill calls for companies to provide a website url, a QR code, a symbol or a phone number on the package that will send consumers on a wild goose chase to figure out what GMOs might be in their food.

This sham of a federal labeling scheme pre-empts any state law, robbing states of the right to adopt meaningful GMO labeling laws, as Vermont has done.

Added to that, the bill doesn’t even provide for any federal penalties for companies’ failure to comply. It excludes the most recent forms of genetic engineering, and it’s a total cave-in to Monsanto.

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Raw Milk Pickup Shut Down by State & City Agents

Health departments in Texas have stepped up their attacks on the public’s right to purchase food directly from farmers, resorting to bringing the police to harass and intimidate local raw milk customers.

That’s what happened to one group of raw milk customers in Austin recently. On May 26, they went to a private home to meet the courier that they had hired to pick up their milk, and were met by four inspectors from the City of Austin Health Department and Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS). An unmarked police car pulled into the driveway, blocking the raw milk van and a customer’s car – with her children in it – and two policemen emerged.

The inspectors proceeded to tell the customers that they could not take possession of the milk, ignoring protests that they had already paid for that milk. The inspectors also ignored the statement from the courier that he had a signed agreement with the customers making him their agent – and instead falsely wrote on the inspection report that the courier worked for the farmer.…

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