We were successful in stalling the bad seed & sprays bill for almost a month — but Monsanto and its allies succeeded in moving it forward yesterday. And just in case we are able to block them on the “traditional” way to pass a bill (i.e. getting it approved by both chambers), they have found a parallel, alternative path. So we have to block them in BOTH chambers now.
- SB 1172, which would deprive local governments of the ability to regulate seeds or anything involved in the cultivation of plants, will come to the House floor on Sunday for a vote by the full House.
- If we are able to stop SB 1172, Big Ag’s backup plan is to use the amendment process to essentially bypass the House floor. Yesterday, Senators Perry and Buckingham amended HB 3582, an uncontroversial little bill, to add language that blocks local control of seeds & the cultivation of plants. In effect, they simply copied the language of SB 1172 and pasted it into HB 3582. Since HB 3582 has already passed the House, all they have to do is get the Senate to approve it and convince just one Rep – the House author — to agree to the changes. It’s the sort of ugly political maneuvering that happens at the end of the Texas legislative session.
We need your help and FAST!
(More information on the bill is after the Take Action sections)
TAKE ACTION #1
It is urgent that you call your State Representative as soon as possible and urge him or her to vote NO on SB 1172.
Yes, the Reps will be at the Capitol on Saturday because they’re working all through the weekend. You can find out who represents you at http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/Home.aspx and either call or email them (as always, calls are better).
Remember, you want to call your State Representative, not U.S., so scroll down the list to State Rep.
At this stage in the session, shorter is better. Just give your name, the town you live in, and say that you’re calling to urge your Representative to vote NO on SB 1172.
TAKE ACTION #2
After you call your State Representative, please also call your State Senator and urge him or her to vote NO on HB 3582. Again, just give your name, the town you live in, and say that you’re calling to urge your Representative to vote NO on HB 3582.
We know it’s confusing. At this stage in session, the House is voting on Senate bills, and the Senate is voting on House bills, so the bill numbers are correct!
SB 1172 would prevent cities and counties from regulating any seed “in any manner, including planting seed or cultivating plants grown from seed,” even though no county or city in Texas has attempted to ban any seeds.
Wondering why we are calling it the Monsanto bill for the first time? Publicly, the bill has been pushed by Farm Bureau, Dow Chemical, and DuPont, who we’ve mentioned before. But we bumped into a Monsanto lobbyist at the Capitol last week, as he made rounds to try to push the bill forward, confirming our suspicions that they’re also key players behind this bill.
We’re up against some of the most powerful companies and lobbies in the country — please help us to fight them!
What does blocking local control of seeds mean?
- No local ban or even restrictions such as buffer zones to limit genetically engineered crops. Even if farmers lose markets because their non-GMO crops become contaminated, local governments would be powerless. Consider that Texas rice farmers were among those who lost hundreds of millions of dollars when their crops were contaminated in 2006.
- No regulation of bee-killing seed coatings. The bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides are not only used as sprays, but even more often as seed treatments.
And this bill removes local control over not only seeds, but a very broad scope of activities. “Cultivating” means “fostering the growth” of the plants, which would include everything people use to grow plants, including fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and even water. The way statutes are interpreted, no words can be redundant — so “cultivate” must mean something besides seeds or their planting.
So what does blocking local control of “cultivation” mean? We can think of several things:
- It would prevent any local regulation of when or where herbicides are sprayed, even to protect neighboring farmers from overspray or to address health issues. The state legislature already took away some of the local governments’ powers a few years ago (in another sneaky move), but at this point, local governments can still adopt special restrictions, as well as enforce the federal and state laws. SB 1172 would take away that remaining local control.
- It would prevent any local regulation of land applications of manure. Manure is wonderful in moderate quantities, such as when it’s deposited by grazing animals or used as part of an overall sustainable program. But feedlots and CAFOs need someplace to put the mountain of manures and the slurry from the manure lagoons that they create, and that can threaten both human health and our water supplies when they use farm and ranch land essentially as a dumping grounds.
- As currently written, it would take away the ability for local governments to impose outdoor watering restrictions even in drought. We’ve been told they plan to amend it to address that – but this simply highlights the bizarrely broad scope of this bill … a bill that is supposed to be about seeds extends even to water regulations and drought measures?! And even now, they’re not excluding the topic of water from the bill, just carving out specific areas that will remain local … and pre-empting the rest.
Ultimately, the bill blocks local governments from responding to the many situations that we haven’t identified or that come up in the future. Agriculture is changing constantly, and new problems arise – but local governments’ hands will be tied.
The proponents keep claiming that the bill is just about seeds. But they keep refusing to take out the “cultivation” provision. And we’ve seen versions of this bill in other states, and they include fertilizers, herbicides, and more – so it’s pretty clear that they want more than seeds.
These issues are best addressed on a local level because the conditions are not uniform across the state. They depend on what is being grown, the land uses (how much and where is farmland compared to residential) and physical issues such as the topography and climate. Texans need to be able to seek help from their local governments for local concerns!