Check out this update on the Texas Legislative Session – thanks to the Waco Downtown Farmers Market and the good work of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA):
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.
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
Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance
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)
Register now for the Farm and Food Leadership Conference, Sept. 10–11
This unique conference focuses on the policies affecting our farms and our food. Topics include the 2012 Farm Bill, genetically modified foods, corporate control of our food system and much more. Register by August 1, for best rates! Bastrop Convention Center. Click here to register and for more information, or call 254-697-2661.
U.S. Senate Ag Committee on Fast Track with Farm Bill:Support for New Farmer Training & Assistance In Peril
The U.S. Senate version of the 2012 Farm Bill will be introduced by Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow in the next few days, and immediately following its introduction it will be marked up and voted on by the Senate Agriculture Committee. Changes to programs and funding levels are being floated — some not so good and some outright bad.
One high-quality program under threat is the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. Passed in the 2008 Farm Bill with dedicated funding, this program helps resource groups and institutions assisting new farmers.
Thousands of beginning farmers have received support though these Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program funded projects. You probably know an organization or institution that received a grant or you know a new farmer that participated in a project. The program leverages that community-based support, which makes a huge difference for beginning farmers. It’s a great example of how public investments can stimulate the outcomes we want – more beginning farmers getting started and succeeding. That is something we all know we need more of.
The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program has no funding past 2012. As Senate Farm Bill proceeds, it is still unclear if any resources will be dedicated to the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. The only indication we have to go on is what happened in the proposed “Secret Farm Bill” within the failed Super Committee process last fall. In the “Secret Farm Bill” only $10 million a year was provided to the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. That would be a 47 percent decrease compared to what was offered for the program this year and represents a massive cut to the program overall. We cannot allow this to happen in the Senate Farm Bill.
U.S. Senators need to hear from organizations and farmers about the need for making real investments in beginning farmer support. Ask your Senator to secure these resources that maintain and grow training and assistance for our next generation of American farmers and ranchers.
To contact your Senator, use the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at: 202-224-3121. Message: I want Senator __________ to make the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program a top priority and to ensure it is funded at $25 million a year in the Farm Bill. We need to invest in support for new farmers. Dedicate the funding and continue this new farmer support program as is. It does not need changes. It does not need tweaks. It needs funding.
When you call, it’s best to try and contact the staff member responsible for agriculture issues if you can. If they are not available, make sure to leave a message with the receptionist. Let them know what organization you’re with and where you’re from.
Outreach and Events Coordinator, Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance
The Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA) is a national organization that supports independent family farmers and protects a healthy and productive food supply for American consumers. FARFA promotes common sense policies for local, diversified agricultural systems.
FARFA is seeking an Outreach and Events Coordinator to help with special events, fundraising, and outreach efforts. This position is currently part-time (10-20 hrs/week), but may be expanded in the future. Preference will be given to people in Central Texas where we are headquartered.
Manages outreach efforts. Responsibilities include: developing outreach materials in cooperation with the executive director; and arranging for tables and exhibits at farmers’ markets and conferences.
Coordinates special events, including our annual conference in September, the East Austin Urban Farm Tour in April, and additional fundraising events. Responsibilities include: planning event; securing event venues, media coverage, equipment, food, supplies, and security; promoting and marketing; obtaining sponsorships and donated items/services; and donor acknowledgments.
Recruits and coordinates volunteers. Responsibilities include: recruiting and training volunteers, recognizing volunteer contributions, equipping volunteers for leadership roles and new assignments, soliciting volunteer feedback, and maintaining volunteer records.
COMPENSATION: Salary dependent on experience; range $15-$17/hour
Experience: Experience in farming, food services, membership development, nonprofit services, or a related field required. Fundraising and social media experience is desirable. Basic accounting or bookkeeping experience is a plus. At least five years of professional work experience is preferred.
Skills: Highly organized, very detail-oriented, excellent customer service, strong interpersonal skills, strong computer skills, including proficiency in Excel and Word.
Capabilities: Highly motivated and brings a positive attitude to work. Ability to work well with a wide range of people, works well under pressure, handle multiple tasks at once, and adapt to changing situations on a daily basis.
HOW TO APPLY
Position will remain open until filled. Please send cover letter, resume, and three references to Judith@FarmAndRanchFreedom.org by Friday, June 15, 2012. Interviews will be offered to select candidates on a rolling basis.
For more information about FARFA, visit our website at http://www.FarmAndRanchFreedom.org
FARFA is an equal opportunity employer and encourages applicants from diverse backgrounds to apply.
Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance
Office Phone: 254-697-2661
Here are more clarifications about Cottage Food Bill. Under the new law you cannot sell at farmers markets – just directly from your home (as if you weren’t doing that already).
and a link to the rules.
1. Food must be sold from your home, directly to another consumer. No
sales at farmer’s markets, county fairs, roadside stands, local
festivals, craft shows, wholesale, or resale to restaurants, grocery
stores, coffee shops, etc. The food must be purchased at your home.
2. Foods are limited to non-potentially hazardous baked goods
(cookies, cakes, breads, Danish, donuts, pastries, pies, and other
items that are prepared by baking the item in an oven), canned jams,
jellies, and dry herb mixes. THESE ARE THE ONLY FOODS ALLOWED. If you
do not see it on this list, it’s not allowed.
3. Annual gross income from sales of above food items must be $50,000 or less.
Taken from the FARFA website, regarding the Cottage Food Bill and other similar bills this past legislative season . . .
FARFA worked on several bills in the regular 2011 Texas legislative session. While the raw milk bill (HB 75/ SB 237) died, portions of the cottage foods (HB 1139 and HB 2084) and farmers market (HB 3387) bills were passed within SB 81. Specifically, under SB 81, small-scale producers of low-risk foods are exempt from regulation under the following conditions:
1) They are selling non-hazardous baked goods, canned jams or jellies, or dried herbs directly to consumers;
2) They make $50,000 or less in gross sales of these foods;
3) They sell from their home; and
4) They label the food with a label that includes the name and address of the producer, and a statement that the food is not inspected by the state or local health departments. (The Department of State Health Services will adopt a rule governing the labeling requirement)
SB 81 also includes two provisions to help farmers market vendors:
1) Clarifies that farmers and food vendors at farmers markets can obtain temporary food establishment permits for up to one year, without limiting permits based on the number of days during which the farmers market takes place. This provision recognizes that farmers markets are special events regardless of the number of days that they occur on, while providing the flexibility for local governments to decide the best option for their jurisdiction.
2) Prevents mandatory mechanical refrigeration or electric heating requirements. While the state and local health departments can still adopt rules governing what temperatures foods must be kept at (to keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot), they cannot dictate the specific method by which the farmer or vendor meets these requirements. The only exception would be when a municipality owns the farmer’s market. In those cases, the municipality may specify the method to comply with food temperatures.
These farmers market provisions do not apply in counties with a population of less than 50,000 people and over which no local health department has jurisdiction.
Read the entire text of SB 81
OTHER BILLS OF INTEREST
To read the full text of each bill, click on the link with the bill number.
HB 268 – Relating to the exemption from sales and use taxes … for timber and certain items used in or on a farm, ranch, timber operation, or agricultural aircraft operation.
HB 274 – Relating to the reform of certain remedies and procedures in civil actions and family law matters, referred to as “Loser pays.” This bill will make it more difficult for individuals and small nonprofits to take on large corporations in the Texas courts.
HB 414 – Relating to the regulation of equine dentistry and the conducting of licensing examinations by the State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners. Background: in 2006 the Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners established a rule that floating horses’ teeth was veterinary medicine. After several lawsuits and multiple bill introductions, a bill was passed this session that makes floating a horses’ teeth a veterinary procedure, but allows non-veterinarians the ability to provide this service under “appropriate” supervision of the veterinarian.
HB 1451 – Relating to the licensing and regulation of certain dog and cat breeders; providing penalties.
HB 1992 – Relating to the authority of the Texas Animal Health Commission to set and collect fees. Provides authority to TAHC to set fees “for any service provided by the commission” through 2015.
HB 2471 – Relating to limiting the civil liability of certain persons who obtain or provide medical care and treatment for certain animals.
HB 2994 – Relating to the creation, operation, and funding of the urban farm microenterprise support program.
SB 18 – Relating to the use of eminent domain authority.
SB 89 – Relating to summer nutrition programs provided for by school districts.
SB 199 – Relating to agricultural projects in certain schools, including the eligibility of nonprofit organizations that partner with schools to receive grants. Authorizes TDA to provide grants to nonprofits that partner with schools in urban districts to demonstrate projects designed to foster an understanding and awareness of agriculture.
SB 332 – Relating to the ownership of groundwater below the surface of land, the right to produce that groundwater, and the management of groundwater in this state.
SB 387 – Relating to the sale and consumption in this state of raw oysters harvested from Texas waters.
SB 449 – Relating to the appraisal for ad valorem tax purposes of open-space land devoted to water stewardship purposes on the basis of its productive capacity.
SB 479 – Relating to limiting the liability of certain persons for farm animal activities. Extends the protections against liability that are currently provided for equine activities to all farm animal activities, such as fairs, rodeos, and parades.