Tag Archives: farm bill

Improving Access to Local Foods in Texas

 

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Although local foods travel a short physical distance from farm to table, farmers travel a long road with obstacles: government laws and regulations made by and for the benefit of big corporate agribusinesses. The Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA) provides a voice for small/independent farms, working to protect their freedom to produce and sell local, healthy foods and provide access to consumers.

We’re working on common-sense bills to remove some of these barriers in Texas. YOUR support is needed to move these bills forward! Please contact your State Representative and Senator, and urge them to support these local foods bills in the next legislative session beginning January 2013. Don’t know who represents you? Visit www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us or call 512-463-4630.

PROPOSED BILLS

  • Encouraging home-based food production (“cottage foods”): Last session, a bill provided that producers could make specific low-risk foods in their homes and sell directly to consumers, up to $50K/year, without regulation by state/local health departments. The new bill would expand the law to cover more foods and allow for sales to occur at farmers markets, farm stands, and other agreed-upon locations.
  • Establishing fair property tax for urban farms and community gardens: Current state law provides that land shall be appraised as agricultural land if it’s primarily for “agricultural use.” Although defined broadly, it has been applied restrictively. This bill will help urban farms and community gardens qualify for agricultural valuation in a reasonable time frame.
  • Improving access to land for community gardens: This bill protects landowners from liability if they allow vacant lots to be used as land for community gardens.
  • Making it easier to offer samples at farmers markets/farm stands: Letting customers sample food is a great way to increase sales for small farmers and food producers, but current regulations are based on requirements for brick-and-mortar facilities. This bill provides clear, appropriate requirements for sampling at farmers markets and farm stands.
  • Limiting fees for farmers selling directly to consumers: Many local health departments require farmers and other food producers selling directly to consumers to apply for permits, and the associated fees create a financial burden on those who are small businesses with low profit margins. The bill proposes to cap health department fees at $50 per jurisdiction.
  • Improving access to raw milk: Texans can legally buy unpasteurized milk from pasture-raised cows and goats raised, but regulations limit sales to on-farm, which burdens consumers and penalizes farmers. HB 46 would allow licensed farmers to sell raw milk directly to consumers at farmers markets/farm stand/fairs, or make delivery arrangements, while still ensuring safety.
  • Removing unnecessary fees: HB 254 protects urban farmers from the imposition of wastewater fees for water used for agricultural uses (this water doesn’t enter the wastewater system).
  • Removing barriers to on-farm and in-home food production: Current regulations require a separate building from the residence to get any kind of license, creating unnecessary expense and inconvenience for small farmers and small-scale food producers. This bill would allow in-home licensed facilities if they meet the applicable sanitary requirements.

For more information and to stay informed on what you can do to help, go to www.FarmAndRanchFreedom.org & sign up for free email alerts!