Published March 15, 2021
This week, we had a lot of discussions with Texas legislative staffers that included these comments:
- “It’s a crazy session.”
- “It’s going to be hard to get anything passed.” And …
- “This bill sounds really good. Have you heard any indication of when you might get a committee hearing?”
The answer to that last question, so far, is “no” – because we haven’t gained enough attention on these bills yet.
With committee hearings just now starting (80 days before the end of session) and COVID continuing to limit how many people can attend, committees are feeling pressure to focus on fewer bills than usual … and with 5,800 bills filed, that means it’s an even tougher fight than usual to get a hearing. We need your help!
Call your State Representative and urge him or her to co-sponsor one or more of our priority bills. Pick the bills that matter the most to you, the ones where you can share why you care about this issue and how it impacts you, your farm, your food source, and/or the community.
Co-sponsors are very important because they are a public signal of support from legislators. A bill that has multiple co-sponsors, especially from both parties, is MUCH more likely to get a committee hearing.
Co-sponsoring is a significant “ask” of a legislator, so they need to hear from constituents about why these specific bills truly matter to the people in their district. Don’t try to get them to co-sponsor all of the bills – pick the one or two or (at most) three that really impact you, and focus your energy on those.
Make the same call to your State Senator.
Find out who represents you and how to contact them.
Check out the list of bills and their sponsors in the Updates Section below. If your Rep or Senator filed one of bills, start your call with a big “Thank you!”
Get ready to share your views with the committee!
Getting the committee hearing is just the first step – we then need to convince a majority of the committee members to vote “yes” on the bill to move it forward. This is the stage at which many bills die.
FARFA’s meetings with legislators and staff to explain the bill, provide data, and address the opposition’s objections, are vital. And so is the testimony of regular people – farmers, consumers, educators – who care about these issues. You don’t need to have a degree or lobbying experience to be an effective advocate for a bill in committee. You just need to have a personal story about what the bill would mean for you – your farm, your business, your access to healthy foods, or whatever it is.
We typically get only 4-5 days’ notice of committee hearings, which makes advance planning difficult. So, our goal is to line up several potential witnesses for each bill right now. Then, when we get notice of the committee hearing, we will reach out to you as quickly as possible and get our final line-up of who can actually come testify.
We will help you plan your comments, figure out the logistics, and hold your hand through the whole experience. You just need to bring yourself and your experiences.
This Week’s Bill Updates
Over the last week, two more of our bills have been joined by “companion bills,” so all but one now have a bill number for each chamber! Having companion bills effectively gives us more time and a second route to passing a bill, if one of them runs into a stumbling block. And given how many stumbling blocks are built into the system, this is good news.
We’ve posted updated fact sheets on our website, which you can download and share with your legislators’ staff in a follow-up email after you’ve called them.
Here’s the list of all the bills, including their sponsors.
- Stop TDA’s overreach and intrusion on small farms – HB 2397 by Rep. Rodriguez and SB 1376 by Sen. Hughes.
- Provide education and grant support for farmers and other landowners to implement healthy soils methods and other “on the ground conservation” programs – HB 2619 by Rep. Wilson and SB 1118 by Sen. Johnson.
- Reduce regulatory burdens and allow small farmers to sell ungraded eggs to restaurants and grocers – HB 2028 by Rep. Lambert and SB 336 by Sen. Johnson.
- Provide clarity for farmers’ market definitions, so the permit fee cap and sampling laws are applied fairly – HB 1652 by Rep. Wilson and SB 617 by Sen. Kolkhorst.
- Increase access to locally raised meat by allowing farmers to sell “herd shares” and use custom exempt slaughterhouses for processing – SB 867 by Sen. Springer.
- Support people’s ability to raise food for themselves by preventing city or HOA bans on gardens, chickens, rabbits, and bees – HB 1686 by Rep. Cortez and SB 1062 by Sen. Zaffirini. (Note that the Food Policy Council of San Antonio is the lead organization on this bill – but we’ll need support from all over the state to pass it!)
It is going to be a difficult session, between COVID, redistricting, and the fallout from the electric grid issues. But FARFA and the local food movement it represents is a “recognized” player at the Capitol now, and our message of supporting resilient, diversified agricultural and food systems has particular resonance after the last year. With your help, we CAN make progress toward that goal this session. Thank you for making your voice heard!