Fair property tax bill gets a hearing on Wednesday, April 8th!

We have been working hard on a wide range of bills to help local farmers and local food producers.  Next week, the first of our bills will be heard by Committee — the first step in getting it passed!

The issue of property taxes, while not fun, is vital for many farmers.  Small farmers who have been denied agricultural valuation of their land face thousands of extra dollars in extra taxes — a cost that they cannot readily absorb with their narrow profit margins.  The issue is also critical for nonprofit community gardens that are trying to provide healthy food for low-income communities.

There are multiple ways you can help, whether you have just a few minutes to call, can stop by the Capitol for 15 minutes, or can stay through the whole hearing.  Your efforts — combined with those of farmers and consumers across the state — really do make a difference!

Read more about the bill and how you can help below.

Fair Property Tax Bill, HB 1900

Texas law, land that is primarily used for agriculture is supposed to qualify for lower taxes, known as “agricultural valuation.”   “Agricultural use” is defined broadly, yet many local county assessors have applied it in a restrictive, narrow manner that is not consistent with the legislative language or intent.  Under these restrictive applications, counties have imposed higher taxes on many people whose primary use of their land is raising food for their communities, including:

  • urban farms
  • vegetable farms
  • sustainable livestock farms, and
  • nonprofit community gardens

HB 1900 seeks to clarify the statute so that these farms and community gardens qualify for the agricultural valuation that they are entitled to.
Please come support this important bill at the Committee hearing on Wednesday, April 8.  All of the details are below.

While you’re at the Capitol, you can increase your impact by taking a few minutes to visit your Representative and Senator in person. We’ll have flyers available with information on all the local foods bills, to make it easy.  You can read about all the bills on our website.

Agriculture Committee Hearing Details  

DATE: Wednesday, April 8, 2015
TIME: The hearing begins at 8:00 am, but you can register as early as 7 am.  The Agriculture Committee will meet from 8 am to 10 am, and then re-convene in the afternoon after the House adjourns. If you need to leave early, don’t worry — you’ll still have made an impact simply be registering (see What to Do, below).
LOCATION: Capitol Extension, Room E1.010.
PARKING: Parking is usually available at the Capitol Visitors Center, located between Trinity and San Jacinto Streets at 12th and 13th.

WHAT TO DO: Come to the hearing room between 7 am and 8:30 am, and sign in at a kiosk saying you support HB 1900. (The kiosk may be open after 8:30 am, we will post updates on our Facebook page.)  You’ll be listed on the witness list even if you leave right after that. The witness list is important because, when the bill goes to the full House after the hearing, the Representatives will look to see how many people were witnesses for or against the bill. Just 15 minutes can have an impact!

If you can stay for the hearing, sign in at the kiosk in support of the bill and then grab a seat. Simply being there and helping to fill the room with bodies who are watching the hearing in person makes an impact on the Committee members.

If you want to testify, please email Judith@FarmAndRanchFreedom.org, and we can explain the process in more detail.  Remember that the Committee has to hear a lot of bills that day, so we need to respect their time and keep all testimony short and focused on the issue.

SIGNING IN: The Texas Legislature now uses electronic witness affirmation forms which are available at registration kiosks located throughout the Capitol Extension. Take the elevator down to Floor E1, and walk down the main hallway about halfway.  Turn down one of the side hallways, then turn again so that you are going parallel to the main hallway. You’ll see little alcoves, where there used to be pay phones — the kiosks are in there.

Be sure to bring this information with you: 

  • The bill number: HB 1900
  • The committee: House Agriculture Committee
  • The time and location of the hearing (View upcoming meetings): 8:00 am, Room E1.010
  • Position: FOR the bill
  • Not testifying

If you have any questions that day, please feel free to call or send a text message to Lara Raich at 512-632-6400.

Can’t come to the Capitol?  You can still help!
No matter where you live in Texas, you can help support the property tax bill at the hearing next week!

Call or email your State Representative to urge him or her to co-author HB 1900, to provide for fair property taxes for small farmers, sustainable farmers, and community gardens.

You can find out who represents you at www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us or by calling the Texas Capitol Switchboard at 512-463-4630.

Your email will have an even greater impact if you personalize it with a sentence or two about why this issue is important to you.

Sample email:  “My name is ___, and I am a constituent.  I urge you to co-author HB 1900, the property tax bill that would provide small farmers, sustainable farmers, and community gardens with the same tax treatment as large farmers.  Please show your support for small businesses and local food production by co-authoring HB 1900.”