Update on Texas Local Foods Bills

With nine bills before the Texas Legislature, the next ten weeks are going to be extremely busy. You won’t be able to take action on every alert, and we realize that. But please do take action as often, and in whatever way, you can.

HB 910, to limit health permit fees for farmers selling directly to consumers & other farmers’ market vendors, has been unanimously approved by the Public Health Committee! It is now in the Calendars Committee, waiting to be scheduled for a vote by the full House.

HB 46, to legalize farmers’ market sales of raw milk, is still awaiting a Committee vote. The state health department has removed the inaccurate fiscal note, clearing the way for the bill to move forward. We have been working on minor amendments to the bill to address the other concerns that were raised at the hearing, and we are very close to a deal.

HB 1306, to provide for fair property tax treatment for small farmers, urban farmers, vegetable farmers, and diversified farmers, had a hearing before the House Agriculture Committee this week. Special thanks to Glen Foore of Springdale Farm, Stephanie Scherzer of Rain Lily Farm, Stacie Roussell of All We Need Farms, and Susie Marshall of TOFGA, who all gave excellent testimony!

The Committee members asked good questions and were clearly interested in the issues. The biggest obstacle is the huge fiscal note ($278 million) that the Comptroller developed, based on the absurd assumption that every person who owns 1.5 acres would actually qualify for agricultural valuation. Representative Eddie Rodriguez, the bill sponsor, is working to get a more reasonable estimate so that we can move the bill forward.

HB 1392, the DSHS Better Communications Act, also had a great hearing this week. Special thanks go to Susie Marshall of TOFGA, Erin Flynn of Green Gate Farms, and Amy Greer of Winters Family Beef, who covered a wide spectrum of the issues and the impacts that the confusing regulations have on producers. There is no fiscal note attached to the bill, and we anticipate that the Public Health Committee may approve it quickly.

The other bills (sampling, separate building, wastewater fees, and liability for community garden land use) are still awaiting hearings.

We deeply appreciate all of the bill sponsors. If any of the legislators listed below are your Representative, please be sure to say thank you!

HB 46 (raw milk): Thank you to authors Dan Flynn, Dennis Bonnen, Jodie Laubenberg, and Bill Zedler; Co-Authors: Lance Gooden, Bryan Hughes, Phil King, Lyle Larson, George Lavender, Rick Miller, John Otto, Eddie Rodriguez, David Simpson, Steve Toth, and James White.

HB 910 (health permit fees): Thank you to authors Lois Kolkhorst, Eddie Rodriguez, Drew Springer, Dan Flynn. Co-Authors: Bryan Hughes, George Lavender, John Otto.

HB 970 (cottage foods): Thank you to authors Eddie Rodriguez, Lois Kolkhorst, and Jonathan Stickland. Co-Authors: Bryan Hughes, George Lavender, Scott Turner.

HB 1306 (property taxes): Thank you to author Eddie Rodriguez. Co-authors: Bryan Hughes and George Lavender.

HB 1392 (DSHS Better Communications): Thank you to author Susan King. Co-author: George Lavender.

HB 254 (wastewater): Thank you to authors Borris Miles and Eddie Rodriguez. Co-authors: Ryan Guillen and Bryan Hughes.

HB 1382 (sampling and cooking demonstrations): Thank you to authors David Simpson, Eddie Rodriguez, and Lois Kolkhorst.

HB 1393 (separate building): Thank you to authors Susan King and Eddie Rodriguez. Co-authors: Bryan Hughes and George Lavender.

HB 1652 (land use liability): Thank you to authors Borris Miles, Eddie Rodriguez, and John Davis.