Update on 2011 Texas Legislative Session

Several bills to help family farmers and local foods have been filed in the Texas Legislature. Please call your State Representative today and ask to speak to the staffer who is handling food-related bills. Introduce yourself, mention that you’re a constituent, and ask them to support HB 75, HB 1139, HB 1600, and HB 2084. If you have time, spend a few minutes explaining why you care about supporting family farms and local foods.

More information on these bills is below. If you don’t know who your Representative is, you can find out at www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us


Raw Milk: HB 75, by Representative Flynn, would legalize the sale of raw milk at farmers markets, farm stands, and through delivery. It does not allow raw milk to be sold in the grocery stores. The bill may get a hearing before the House Public Health Committee on Wednesday, March 16, although it is not yet definite. Stay tuned for more information.
Full text: HB 75

Cottage Foods: HB 1139, by Representative Eddie Rodriguez, would provide an exemption from commercial kitchen requirements for people who make low-risk foods and sell them directly to consumers. Under the bill, individuals could produce baked goods, jams and jellies, candies, dried herbs, and other low-risk foods in their home kitchens after completing a food safety education program, and sell up to $150,000 annually directly to consumers.
Full text: HB 1139

Property tax help for new farmers: HB 1600, Under current law, property must be used primarily for agricultural use for 5 years before it can qualify for property taxes based on its agricultural value. This poses significant problems for new farmers. HB 1600, by Representative Eddie Rodriguez, would reduce the requirement to 3 years. As filed, the bill would require landowners to file a new application each year, but we have been told that provision will be deleted and support it with that change.
Full text: HB 1600

Local Foods Omnibus Bill: HB 2084, by Representative Kolhorst, is a multi-faceted bill that would allow people to make low-risk foods in the their home kitchens for direct sale to consumers (similar to HB 1139, but with higher gross sales and no permit requirement); lower fees on small-scale cheesemakers; help farmers markets accept food stamp benefits; and develop recommendations about how urban farms, community gardens, and sustainable farmers can get fair property tax treatment.
Full text: HB 2084


Other Bills of Interest

Over 3,500 bills have been filed so far, and quite a few will impact farmers and our food system in some way. Here are some bills that FARFA is monitoring that you may be interested in:

SB 199 by Senator West authorizes certain nonprofit organizations that partner with certain schools to receive grants for agricultural projects. It has been set for a Committee hearing in the Senate Agriculture Committee today (Monday, March 7), at 1:30 pm or upon adjournment.
Full text: SB 199

HB 1733 by Representative Ritter and SB 409 by Senator Estes would allow property owners to have their property valued as “open space land” if it is devoted to water stewardship purposes, reducing their property tax burden.
Full text: HB 1733

SB 184 by Senator Nelson directs the General Land Office to develop a plan for the establishment of community food gardens on property owned by the state that is not being used for other purposes.
Full text: SB 184

SB 479 by Senator Estes would limit liability for injuries sustained while involved in an activity with farm animals, similar to the existing limits on liability for engaging in equine activities. It is scheduled for a Committee hearing in the Senate Agriculture Committee today at 1:30 pm or upon adjournment.
Full text: SB 479

SB 756 by Senator Seliger would bar the transport of surface water or groundwater more than 75 miles from the water’s source.
Full text: SB 756