policy


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):

Update on Raw Milk and Permit Fees Hearing.

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)

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.

POSITION ANNOUNCEMENT

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.

CORE RESPONSIBILITIES:

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

QUALIFICATIONS:

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.

Judith McGeary
Executive Director
Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance
http://www.farmandranchfreedom.org
Judith@FarmAndRanchFreedom.org
Office Phone: 254-697-2661

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