Good news for local foods from the Texas Legislature!

Two important bills for local food producers and consumers are making progress in the Texas Legislature:

  • The fair property taxes for small farmers bill, HB 1900, is scheduled for a vote by the full House on Friday, May 1.
  • The raw milk bill, HB 91, passed the House Public Health Committee and is going to the Calendars Committee to be scheduled for a vote

Please speak up now to help keep these two great bills moving forward!Cows in Pasture 2

 

TAKE ACTION #1

Call or email your State Representative to urge him or her to:

  • Vote YES on HB 1900
  • Support HB 91 and help it move forward as quickly as possible

You can find out who your State Representative is by going to www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us  or calling the Texas Capitol Switchboard at 512-463-4630.

If you call after hours, you can simply leave a message: “Hi, my name is ____, and I am a constituent.  I am calling to urge Representative ______ to vote YES on HB 1900, the fair property taxes for small farmers bill, when it comes to the floor this Friday.  Please also support HB 91, the raw milk bill, and do everything you can to get it scheduled for a vote as soon as possible.”

More information and talking points about both bills are at the end of this alert.

If you email, please us two separate emails, one for each bill, and use clear subject lines.  (For example, “Vote Yes on HB 1900, fair property taxes” for one email, and “Support HB 91, reasonable access to raw milk” for the second email)

TAKE ACTION #2

Contact the members of the Calendars Committee and urge them to set HB 91, the raw milk bill, for a vote of the full House as soon as possible.

If you live in the district of one of the Committee members, please take the time for a personal call and be sure to mention that you’re a constituent – and get as many of your friends and neighbors to call and email as possible!  Constituents carry the most weight with the Committee members.

Chairman Todd Hunter
Part of Nueces County – Zip Codes 78343, 78373, 78401, 78404, 78407, 78411, 78412, 78413, 78414, 78415, 78417, 78418, 78419
Phone: 512-463-0672
Email Todd.Hunter@house.state.tx.us

Roberto Alonzo
Part of Dallas County – Zip Codes 75050, 75051, 75052, 75060, 75203, 75208, 75211, 75212, 75216, 75224, 75233
Phone: 512-463-0408
Email: Roberto.Alonzo@house.state.tx.us

Byron Cook
Anderson, Freestone, Hill, and Navarro Counties
Phone: 512-463-0730
Email: Byron.Cook@house.state.tx.us

Sarah Davis
Part of Harris County – Zip Codes 77002, 004, 005, 006, 007, 008, 019, 024, 025, 027, 030, 046, 056, 057, 081, 096, 098, 401
Phone: 512-463-0389
Email: Sarah.Davis@house.state.tx.us

Charlie Geren
Part of Tarrant County – Zip Codes 76020, 76052, 76071, 76107, 76108, 76114, 76116, 76127, 76131, 76135, 76179
Phone: 512-463-0610
Email: Charlie.Geren@house.state.tx.us

Helen Giddings
Part of Dallas County – Zip Codes 75104, 75115, 75125, 75134, 75141, 75146, 75154, 75159, 75172, 75180, 75216, 75217, 75232, 75241, 75249, 75253
Phone: 512-463-0953
Email: Helen.Giddings@house.state.tx.us

Patricia Harless
Part of Harris County – Zip Codes 77014, 77064, 77066, 77067, 77068, 77069, 77070, 77086, 77375, 77379
Phone: 512-463-0496
Email: Patricia.Harless@house.state.tx.us

Dan Huberty
Part of Harris County – Zip Code 77044, 77336, 77338, 77339, 77345, 77346, 77357, 77365, 77373, 77386, 77532
Phone: 512-463-0520
Email: Dan.Huberty@house.state.tx.us

Eric Johnson
Part of Dallas County – Zip Codes 75149, 75150, 75201, 75203, 75207, 75210, 75212, 75214, 75215, 75216, 75218, 75223, 75224, 75226, 75227, 75228
Phone: 512-463-0586
Email: Eric.Johnson@house.state.tx.us

Ken King
Armstrong, Bailey, Briscoe, Castro, Cochran, Donley, Gray, Hale, Hansford, Hemphill, Hockley, Lamb, Lipscomb, Ochiltree, Roberts, Swisher, Yoakum counties
Phone: 512-463-0736
Email: Ken.King@house.state.tx.us

Four Price
Carson, Hutchinson, Moore, Potter, Sherman counties
Phone: 512-463-0470
Email: Four.Price@house.state.tx.us

Debbie Riddle
Part of Harris County – zip codes 77068, 77073, 77090, 77338, 77354, 77365, 77373, 77375, 77379, 77380, 77388, 77389
Phone:512-463-0572
Email: Debbie.Riddle@house.state.tx.us

Lyle Larson
Part of Bexar County – zip codes 78006, 78015, 78023, 78216, 78230, 78231, 78232, 78248, 78249, 78255, 78256, 78257, 78258, 78260, 78261
Phone: 512-463-0646
Email: Lyle.Larson@house.state.tx.us

Eddie Lucio III
Part of Cameron County – zip codes 78520, 78521, 78526, 78550, 78552, 78559, 78566, 78575, 78583, 78586
Phone: 512-463-0606
Email: Eddie.Lucio@house.state.tx.us

MORE INFORMATION ABOUT HB 1900, Fair Property Taxes for Small Farmers

HB 1900 by Representative Eddie Rodriguez would help small farmers and community gardens 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.    Specifying that nonprofit community gardens qualify as “agricultural uses.”
4.    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 community gardens, small tracts, 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

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 unfair marketing restrictions burden 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.