Texas Friends: Visit legislators’ home offices, Feb. 18-22

Fighting for Food FreedomWe need your help to pass bills to help local farmers and artisan food producers across Texas–from lowering permit fees to expanding home kitchen options and much more!

To become law, our local food bills must have the support of legislators who are swamped with thousands of bills on every topic imaginable. The BEST way to bring their attention to our bills is with meetings and phone calls from constituents!

Don’t think your voice matters? Think again! Two weeks ago, a farmer called his State Representative and talked with the staff about current laws that require him to go through expensive headaches to sell eggs to restaurants and grocers. We followed up with a proposed bill and more information for the State Representative … and now that representative has filed the bill!

Every call COUNTS! We see it every day, when we visit offices–the legislators who are hearing from the people back in their home district care a lot more about what we have to say.

Many calls in a short period amplify the impact, which is why we’re planning the “Local Foods at Home Week,” February 18 – 22. We need your help during this week to influence legislation!

The legislators will all be back in their home districts on February 18th, for Presidents Day. So make plans to meet them in person that day! Or set up an appointment to talk with their staff during the week by phone. Guidance on how to set up the meetings, as well as relevant information on the bills, are below.

Let us know that you’re planning to take action that week, and we’ll be sure to send you more tips and materials you can share that reinforce your message about the importance of supporting our local producers with meaningful legislation.

 

(Even if you can’t take action during that week, please respond to the 2-minute survey, so that we know how we can best support you in taking action in the future.)

 

How to set up a meeting

First, find out who your legislators are here.

 

You want to contact your State Representative and State Senators because all of these bills are at the state level.

 

When you call the office, introduce yourself (full name and town) and mention the fact that you’re a constituent. Tell the staffer that you would like to meet with your legislator in person to discuss bills that help local farmers and food producers. Be willing to meet with a staffer if the legislator is not available–staffers often have a significant impact.

 

If you can’t arrange an in-person meeting with either the legislator or staff, ask to speak to the staffer who handles agriculture and food issues. Talk with the staffer about the issues over the phone, and then immediately follow up with a letter or email restating your points. You may get transferred to a scheduler or asked to put the request in writing.

 

Example introduction: “Hi, I’m Jane Doe from [CITY]. I’d like to meet with Representative (or Senator) [NAME OF ELECTED OFFICIAL] to discuss our food system and supporting local farmers. Is he/she going to be in the District for President’s Day on February 18th? If Representative (or Senator) [NAME OF ELECTED OFFICIAL] is unavailable, I’m happy to meet with a staffer, or talk by phone anytime that week.”

 

Let us know that you have a meeting set up here.  We can send you materials on the bills, tips for successful meetings, and even talk with you by phone or email to help prepare if you want extra support.

 

FARFA’s Priority Bills

We have eleven bills that will be filed within the next few weeks! The best strategy is to focus on the bills that matter most to you personally as a farmer or consumer–either because these bills make it easier for your farm or food business, or because they make a food you want more readily available locally.

 

When you RSVP for the action week, we’ll send you a handout that covers all the bills so you can let your legislators know that you want them to support the entire local food movement by supporting all of the bills. And if you want more information on specific bills, just let us know!

 

  1. Expand the cottage food law to cover pickled and fermented foods, and remove some of the unnecessary restrictions in the current law;
  2. Limit the fees that local health departments can impose on farmers’ market vendors;
  3. Allow licensed raw milk dairies to sell at farmers’ markets and direct delivery (HB 503/ SB 80);
  4. Make it easier for small farmers, urban farmers, and diversified farmers to get agricultural valuation and lower property taxes (HB 97);
  5. Reduce how long it takes new farmers to qualify for agricultural valuation, and lower property taxes, on their farms;
  6. Require local health departments to give straight answers to farmers and food producers about what they have to do to comply with the law;
  7. Create a small farm & rural business ombudsman to help businesses navigate regulatory agencies’ requirements;
  8. Remove licensing and fee burdens for small-scale flower growers (a wonderful side business for small vegetable producers);
  9. Allow farmers, cottage food producers, and other farmers market vendors to provide samples of their foods without expensive permits;
  10. Allow farmers to sell ungraded eggs to restaurants and retailers, improving access to locally raised eggs (HB 1284);
  11. Make it easier for farmers to process poultry on-farm without having to build a facility that costs tens of thousands of dollars.