TX Bills that Help Local Farms and Market Vendors.

A message from Alexandra Landeros from the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance:

Dear Texas farmers market,

Four bills have been filed in the Texas Legislature that would make it easier for local farmers and small-scale food producers to raise and market their products. (In a recent incident in San Antonio, a raw milk farmer’s license was suspended because he delivered to a private home – one of our bills seeks to change the law to allow raw milk delivery.) Several more bills should be filed very shortly.

I’ve included a short summary of the bills below, and a more detailed description is posted at http://www.farmandranchfreedom.org/2013-texas-legislature-local-food-farm-bills

Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA) has been heavily involved in drafting these bills and finding legislative support for them. All of the bills have a good shot of passing but – as with any bill – they will all be uphill battles. People’s phone calls and emails really do make a difference; whether each of these bills succeeds or fails will depend in large part on grassroots support and activism.

We’d like to work with you to reach out to the farmers and cottage food vendors at your farmers market – to let them know about the bills and keep them posted as to how they can take action on issues that they care about. We can provide email action alerts, supporting information, flyers (both electronic and hard copy), and anything else that would be helpful for you.

The first step for all of the bills will be to go through one of the House Committees. We have listed the members of the relevant Committees after the bill summaries, so you can see what areas they come from. If you have contacts in those areas, it is particularly important that they make calls! We have a list that includes the specific zip codes posted at http://www.farmandranchfreedom.org/2013-texas-legislature-house-committees.

Please also let us know if your farmers market is willing to go on record supporting some or all of the bills. This involves simply sending us an email stating the organization’s name, your title, and which bills you support. This is very helpful because legislators often ask us who is supporting the bills.

For substantive questions or comments on any of the bills, please contact Judith McGeary at Judith@FarmAndRanchFreedom.org or (254) 697-2661.

If you have any questions about outreach, please feel free to contact me (Alexandra Landeros) a tAlexandra@FarmAndRanchFreedom.org or (512) 537-2692.

Thank you,

Alexandra

p.s. We’re also excited to announce that we have a brand new membership program that offers special perks to our farmers’ market members such as member signs (metal and vinyl) to hang in your office or market info booth, as well as listing (with link back) on our new website to promote your market. You can see the membership levels and benefits at http://www.farmandranchfreedom.org/farfa-memberships


Alexandra M. Landeros
Communications Director
Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance
alexandra@farmandranchfreedom.org
(512) 537-2692
http://www.farmandranchfreedom.org

Follow us:
http://www.facebook.com/FarmAndRanchFreedom
http://www.twitter.com/FARFA_org

BILL SUMMARIES

More detailed description is posted at http://www.farmandranchfreedom.org/2013-texas-legislature-local-food-farm-bills

HB 46 improves access to raw milk by allowing the sale of raw milk by licensed farmers at farmers markets, farm stands, and through delivery.
HB 970 encourages home-based food production by expanding the cottage foods bill to cover more foods and allow sales at farmers markets and farm stands. This expands on last session’s bill, which enabled individuals to make specific low-risk foods in their homes and sell directly to consumers, up to $50K/year, without regulation by state or local health departments.
HB 910 limits fees imposed by local and state health departments for farmers selling directly to consumers to $50 per jurisdiction annually. This addresses the growing problems of health departments imposing high or duplicative permit fees, creating a financial burden on small local foods businesses.
HB 254 protects urban farmers and community gardens from paying unnecessary wastewater feeswhen the water they use does not enter the wastewater system.

Four other bills are currently being finalized and will be filed soon:

Establish fair property tax for urban farms and community gardens by clarifying that vegetable production, fruit production, pastured livestock, diversified livestock operations, and community gardens qualify for agricultural valuation. The bill will also try to address the problem of high minimum acreage requirements.
Improve access to land for community gardens by protecting landowners from liability if they allow vacant lots to be used as land for community gardens.
Make it easier to offer samples at farmers markets and farm stands by providing clear, appropriate standards for sampling.
Remove barriers to local food production and distribution by allowing people to have licensed facilities within their homes. Current regulations require a separate building to get any kind of license, imposing significant expense on small farmers and food producers.

HOUSE PUBLIC HEALTH COMMITTEE MEMBERS

Detailed list with zip codes is posted at http://www.farmandranchfreedom.org/2013-texas-legislature-house-committees

Public Health Committee & the counties they represent (will hear the raw milk, cottage foods, sampling, and separate building bills):

Garnet Coleman (part of Harris County)
Nicole Collier (part of Tarrant County)
Phillip Cortez (part of Bexar County)
Sarah Davis (part of Harris County)
Bobby Guerra (part of Hidalgo County)
Susan King (part of Jones, Nolan, and Taylor counties)
Lois Kolkhorst (Austin, Burleson, Colorado, Fayette, Grimes, Lavaca and Washington Counties)
Jodie Laubenberg (part of Collin County)
Elliott Naishtat (part of Travis County)
J.D. Sheffield (Comanche, Coryell, Erath, Hamilton, McCulloch, Mills, San Saba, and Somervell counties)
Bill Zedler (part of Tarrant County)

Ways and Means Committee & the counties they represent (will hear the health permit fees and property tax bills):

Dwayne Bohac (part of Harris County)
Angie Chen Button (part of Dallas)
Craig Eiland (Chambers County, part of Galveston)
Naomi Gonzales (part of El Paso)
Harvey Hilderbran (Bandera, Crockett, Edwards, Kerr, Kimble, Llano, Mason, Medina, Menard, Real, Schleicher, and Sutton counties)
Trey Martinez (Fischer County, part of Bexar County)
John Otto (Liberty, San Jacinto, and Walker counties)
Allan Ritter (Orange County, part of Jefferson)
Mark Strama (part of Travis County)

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