May 11, 2015: Four good local food bills have passed the House of Representatives! We have just a few weeks to get them through the Senate in order to become law:
- HB 91, which would expand legal access to raw milk by allowing licensed farmers to sell at farmers’ markets and make delivery arrangements with consumers
- HB 1900, which would provide fair property tax treatment for small farmers, vegetables farmers, and diversified farms
- HB 262, which would limit liability for landowners who allow their property to be used for community gardens, increasing access to land
- HB 1846, which would require transparency in the state’s implementation of new federal food safety regulations
At the same time, the massive water marketing bill that we oppose has also passed the House and is moving through the Senate, where we will continue to fight to stop it.
Thank you to everyone who has already taken action! Your voice truly does make a difference, and we’ve come a long way already. Will you help us keep fighting for our farmers and our food system in this final month of the session?
It is most effective to focus on only one or two bills at a time, so this action alert will focus on the two bills that most need help in the Senate at this time: the raw milk bill and the property tax bill. We’ll send out additional alerts in the coming days as each bill reaches key action points. We know you can’t take action every time – but whatever you can do helps!
Call or email your State Senator to urge him or her to:
You can find out who your State Senator is by going to www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us or calling the Texas Capitol Switchboard at 512-463-4630.
The message is simple: “Hi, my name is ____, and I am a constituent. I am calling to urge Senator ______ to support HB 1900, the fair property taxes for small farmers bill, and HB 91, the raw milk bill. Both bills have passed the House and are now in the Senate.”
More information and talking points about both bills are below.
If you email, please us two separate emails, one for each bill, and use clear subject lines. For example, use “Support HB 1900, fair property taxes” for one email, and “Support HB 91, reasonable access to raw milk” for the second email. That way, the staff can easily identify which bill you’re supporting.
MORE INFORMATION ABOUT HB 1900, Fair Property Taxes for Small Farmers
You can download our latest fact sheet on HB 1900 here
HB 1900, by Representative Eddie Rodriguez, would help small farmers get fair treatment under our property tax laws.
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 1900 clarifies 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!
2. Directing 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.
3. Directing the Comptroller, in consultation with Texas A&M Agrilife Extension, tax appraisal districts, and representatives of affected farmers, to develop guidelines to address under what conditions small acreages and diversified farms qualify for agricultural valuation. These guidelines will limit who is eligible and protect against abuses.
The landowner will still have show that the land is devoted principally to agricultural use, and has been for at least five of the preceding seven years. The landowner will also remain subject to five years of rollback taxes if the property ceases to be used for agricultural purposes.
This proposal does not seek to increase the number of landowners who are entitled to open-space valuation; rather, it merely ensures that people who should already qualify for agricultural valuation under the Texas Constitution are not inappropriately excluded by local authorities.
MORE INFORMATION ABOUT HB 91, Raw Milk
You can download our latest fact sheet on HB 91 here
HB 91 by Representative Dan Flynn, would legalize the sale of raw milk by licensed farmers directly to consumers at farmers markets, and allow farmers and consumers to agree to delivery arrangements.
- Raw milk is already legal in Texas, but the regulations restrict sales to on-the-farm only. This marketing restriction burdens both farmers and consumers.
- Only 6 illnesses have been reported linked to raw milk in Texas in the last 17 years, out of an estimated ¾ million Texans who drink raw milk
- Texas Grade A Raw for Retail dairies are subject to regulations that meet or exceed all regulatory standards for pasteurized milk.
- HB 91 simply allows licensed farmers to sell raw milk at farmers’ markets and through delivery arrangements. Sales are limited to direct farm-to-consumer and will NOT be allowed in grocery stores.
- HB 91 improves the safety of raw dairy by allowing producers to transport it to consumers under safe conditions, rather than relying on consumers to remember to take coolers and ice.
- By allowing a farmer to make a single trip to serve multiple customers, rather than having each customer drive to the farm, the bill reduces vehicle miles, benefiting air quality, traffic congestion, and public safety.
- HB 91 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.