Texas 2011 Legislative Session Wrap-Up

June 19, 2011: SB 81 Becomes Law

Governor Perry has released the list of vetoed and signed bills, closing the book on the regular session.

The good news is that SB 81, the food safety and local foods bill, was signed by the Governor! While Harris County and other local health departments succeeded in weakening it at the last minute, the bill still contains important provisions that will help the local foods movement:

• Exempting small-scale producers of baked goods, jams, jellies, and dried herbs from regulation so long as they sell directly to consumers from their home (but not from farmers markets);

• Barring health departments from mandating how farmers and food vendors maintain safe temperatures for their foods at farmers markets, protecting them against unnecessary mechanical refrigeration or heating mandates;

• Clarifying that farmers market vendors can obtain temporary food establishment permits without regard to the number of days the farmers market runs, which has been an issue for several markets around the state.

These provisions will help home cottage foods producers, while reducing some of the barriers for food vendors at farmers markets. And we can use this victory to help lay the groundwork for broader changes in the next legislative session. One of our goals for the next session will be to expand the cottage foods provision to cover more foods and to allow for sales at farmers markets.

More details on SB 81 are below, scroll down past the “legislative champions” and “thank you” sections.

Unfortunately, Governor Perry vetoed two of the “urban farming” bills, HB 2996 and HB 2997. But he did sign HB 2994, which creates an “urban farm microenterprise program.” The program is directed to provide financial assistance, from federal and private grants, to microenterprises in urban areas that are primarily engaged in: (1) research into processes and technology related to agricultural production in an urban setting; (2) the production or development of tools or processes for agriculture in a manner suited for an urban setting; or (3) agricultural activities in a manner suited for an urban setting.

In addition to the bills that we were actively involved in (HB 75, HB 1139, HB 2084, HB 3387, HB 2994, HB 2996, HB 2997, SB 81), FARFA monitored many more bills to watch for issues that could pose problems for local farmers and consumers.

Because of the budget problems, be prepared for fees for many government programs, including organic certification from TDA and regulatory activities by the Texas Animal Health Commission, to go up. We will keep you posted as rules for these fees are proposed.

On all of the bills, we had to fight entrenched money and power interests. The progress we made — both in passing SB 81 and in educating legislators about raw milk — was due to the commitment and passion of the thousands of people who took action during the session. From calling your legislators to spreading the word to your friends and neighbors to becoming citizen lobbyists at our education days, each of you played an important role in this effort. Thank you all!

LEGISLATIVE CHAMPIONS

We owe a great deal of appreciation to the legislators who sponsored our bills. They stood up to big agriculture and the entrenched public health bureaucracy, and spoke up not only for their own constituents but for the interests of local food producers and consumers across the state. Please take a moment to send a thank you note to:

  • Representative Lois Kolkhorst, who sponsored the cottage foods and food freedom bill (HB 2084) and who successfully fought to get the cottage foods provisions placed into SB 81: Lois.Kolkhorst@house.state.tx.us
  • Representative Eddie Rodriguez, who sponsored the first cottage foods bill (HB 1139) and the farmers market bill (HH 3387), and who managed to insert portions of the latter into SB 81: Eddie.Rodriguez@house.state.tx.us
  • Representative Dan Flynn, who sponsored the raw milk bill (HB 75) and never stopped fighting to get it passed: Dan.Flynn@house.state.tx.us
  • Senator Bob Deuell, who sponsored the Senate companion to the raw milk bill (SB 237): Bob.Deuell@senate.state.tx.us

These legislative champions were joined by others, both Republican and Democrat, who joint authored or co-authored these bills. If your Representative signed on to any of these bills, please be sure to thank him or her:

HB 75 (raw milk bill): Authored by Dan Flynn, David Simpson, Dennis Bonnen, Eddie Rodriguez, and Jodie Laubenberg, and co-authored by: Jose Aliseda, Jimmie Don Aycock, Marva Beck, Cindy Burkett, Warren Chisum, Garnet Coleman, Allen Fletcher, Kelly Hancock, Charlie Howard, Bryan Hughes, Jason Isaac, Phil King, Lyle Larson, Larry Phillips, Jim Pitts, Chente Quintanilla, Debbie Riddle, Paul Workman, Bill Zedler
Senate companion, SB 237: Senator Bob Deuell

HB 1139 (the first cottage foods bill): Authored by Eddie Rodriguez and Garnet Coleman, and co-authored by Jose Aliseda, Pete Gallego, Veronica Gonzales, Jim Jackson, John Kuempel, Jodie Laubenberg, and Charles Schwertner

HB 2084 (the second cottage foods and overall “food freedom” bill): Authored by Lois Kolkhorst and Eddie Rodriguez, and co-authored by Jose Aliseda, Leo Berman, Pete Gallego, Bryan Hughes, and Jason Isaac

HB 3387 (the farmers market bill): Authored by Eddie Rodriguez, Paul Workman, Jason Isaac, Jose Aliseda, and Bryan Hughes, and co-authored by Leo Berman, Armando Walle, and Beverly Woolley

HB 2994, 2996, and HB 2997 (the urban farming bills): Authored by Borris Miles, and sponsored in the Senate by Senator Craig Estes

SB 81 (the food safety bill that ultimately included cottage foods & farmers market provisions): Authored by Senator Jane Nelson and sponsored in the House by Lois Kolkhorst

SENDING THANK YOU NOTES

To send a hard-copy thank you note to any Representative, mail it to:
The Honorable (full name)
Texas House of Representatives
P.O. Box 2910
Austin, TX 78768-2910

To send a hard-copy thank you note to any Senator, mail it to:
The Honorable (full name)
Texas Senate
P.O. Box 12068
Austin, TX 78711-2068

 

MORE THANK YOU’s

Throughout session, many people worked hard to educate our communities and legislators about local food issues, and we appreciate each person’s contribution. I’d like to give a special thank you to a few individuals and organizations:

  • Emily Erickson, who skillfully organized our education days and hearing turnouts.
  • Jessica Evans, whose enthusiasm and passion for every task never waivered.
  • Brenda Morris, who volunteered to help with every event and for a lot of behind-the-scenes work as well, yet whose only question was what else she could do to help.
  • Kelley Masters, the leader of the Texas Bakers Bill group on Facebook, whose passion and dedication to the cottage foods bill rallied grassroots support and media attention across the State.
  • Dr. Mary Traverse, who spent many long hours at the Capitol educating legislators and staffers about raw milk and local foods.

Thanks also to Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, Sustainable Food Center, Texas Impact, the Texas Food Policy Roundtable, Slow Food Austin, Edible Austin, Edible San Marcos, Food Democracy Now, and Organic Consumers Association, who lent their knowledge, expertise, networks, and support.

Thanks again to everyone who took action this session to help our farms and our food! We become more effective every year at impacting public policy and, with your help, we will work to build on the successes of this session to gain even more next session.