Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance on the Texas Legislature

Thursday, January 26, 2017 6:18 PM

The Texas Legislature is now in session! We have until May 29 to pass bills to help local farmers & food producers – and to kill bad bills that could endanger the future of agriculture in our state.

We understand that the legislative session is not very “user friendly” for the average person. One of FARFA’s jobs is to serve as an “interpreter” – gathering information at the Capitol, explaining it to our members in plain English, and identifying simple ways that you can be involved and make a difference. That is why you are receiving this – and future – alerts.

The Advocacy Process; Step-by-Step

One of the first and most important things you can do is call your legislators – both your State Representative and your State Senator – and ask them to support all of these bills.

And then what? Each bill will be assigned to a committee which will then hold a hearing where the public will testify, both for and against the bill. If you are directly affected by any of these bills and want to be at the Capitol to testify, please email Judith@FarmAndRanchFreedom.org with your name, contact info, and a brief explanation of your interest in the bill. We’ll only have 5 days’ notice before each Committee hearing, so it really helps to plan our witness list ahead of time!

If the committee votes in favor of the bill, it then goes to the Calendars Committee (in the House) or the Lieutenant Governor to be scheduled for a vote by the full chamber. Then comes the vote by the full House or Senate. And then the process begins again in the other chamber, going through committee assignment, a hearing, a committee vote, scheduling, and a floor vote. If we make it through all of these steps, the bill goes to the Governor to sign or veto.

We’ll send you action alerts at every stop, and we’ll also be hard at work at the Capitol ourselves:

  • Attending meetings with the Committee members and staff before the hearing to explain the bills and lining up witnesses to testify. After the hearing, we’ll research the answers to any questions that came up and meet with the Committee members again.
  • Setting meetings with the Calendars Committee members to get the bills scheduled for a vote.
  • Distributing materials and talking with staffers in all 150 House offices, 31 Senate offices, and with the Lieutenant Governor before the votes.
  • Meeting with both proponents and opponents of the bill to negotiate solutions.
  • Develop the action alerts & social media posts to spread the word.
  • Repeating the entire process for every bill!

Keep an eye out for our email alerts, which you can share on social media, and please be sure to ask your friends to sign up for alerts, as well!

Odd-numbered years, when the Texas Legislature is in Session, FARFA’s staff spends an extraordinary amount of time working to gain passage for important bills. But we also have extraordinary expenses for travel, media relations, social media promotions, and press release distribution, plus for printing and copying materials for each of the bills and for 181 legislators. Another very powerful way you can help get these bills passed is by making a financial contribution to FARFA. We are able to accomplish what we do only because of individual donations and membership dues. PLEASE consider becoming a member or making a donation today!

Another way you can help …

In odd-numbered years, when the Texas Legislature is in Session, FARFA’s staff spends an extraordinary amount of time working to gain passage of important bills. We also have extraordinary expenses for travel, media relations, social media promotions, and press release distribution, plus for designing and producing materials for each bill, when then get distributed to 181 legislators.

One very powerful way you can help get these bills passed is by becoming a member of FARFA. Legislators repeatedly ask us how many members we have – more members means more influence! And, of course, membership dues provide vital financial support. We are able to accomplish what we do only because of individual donation and membership dues. PLEASE consider becoming a member or making a donation today!

These Are the “Good” Bills That Need Your Help:

Property Tax Relief for Small-Scale Farmers

This bill clarifies the types of farms that qualify for agricultural valuation for property tax purposes. Sponsored by Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin) and by Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo), the bill addresses local counties’ inappropriate guidelines that make it easy for people raising hay, livestock, or conventional row crops to get ag valuation for a few cows or conventional row crops, but difficult or impossible for farmers raising vegetables for farmers’ markets, pastured poultry, or using organic methods. This bill could save small farmers thousands of dollars in property taxes. Read the full text of the bill here.

Property Tax Relief for Young/Beginning & Military Veteran Farmers

Affording land is one of the biggest barriers for new farmers – and it’s made even harder by the fact that land must be farmed for at least five years before it can receive agricultural valuation (and lower taxes). In those first five years, which are already a struggle for new farmers, the farmer has to pay taxes as if the land were to be developed, unless he or she is lucky enough to find land that is already in farming use. The Young Farmers and Military Veterans bill, SB 330, sponsored by Sen. Jose Rodriguez (D-El Paso), proposes that the five-year waiting period be reduced to one year for young beginning farmers and for military veterans transitioning to become farmers. Read the full text of the bill here.

Expanded Access to Raw Milk

HB 57, sponsored by Rep. Dan Flynn (R-Van) will allow the sale of Grade A raw milk at farmers’ markets and by delivery to consumers. Currently Texas law allows the sale of raw milk only at the point of production … the farm. With just over 40 Grade A raw milk producers in the State, many consumers now drive considerable distances to purchase raw milk. This bill will help raw milk dairy farmers to expand their customer base considerably, while ensuring the safety of raw milk products. Read the full text of the bill here.

The Home Processors’ Bill

Texas’ Cottage Food Law, which FARFA helped pass in 2011 and 2013, allow sales of certain low-risk foods direct-to-consumers at specific locations such as farmers’ markets. The Cottage Food Law opened up many opportunities for home-based food businesses, but it is still a rather limited exemption from the expensive requirement for a commercial kitchen. The 2017 Home Processors Bill expands the list of allowable foods to include canned vegetables, fermented foods, and perishable baked goods. Sales would be allowed both directly to consumers and wholesale, including through mail order and internet sales, as long as the producer and consumer are both in Texas. The bill includes specific sanitation measures, food safety training, and health department inspections to address health and safety concerns in a reasonable, scale-appropriate manner that is still feasible for small businesses. This bill will be filed soon, and we will share that text when it is available.

We always say this, but only because it's TRUE ... there is great strength in our collective voices. Add your voice and make it count!

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