Local farmers and ranchers are heading into the 2019 Texas Legislative Session with a hot hand. After winning key victories in the 2018 Farm Bill, we are setting our sights on advancing policies that further sustainable agriculture and food access at the state level. While SFC is tracking a host of bills in the Texas Legislature, we’ll be dedicating the lion’s share of our efforts to advocate for reform in three areas:
What We'd Like to See in the 2019 Texas Legislative Session
Alex Canepa, SFC Farmers' Market and Advocacy Manager
Farmers’ Market Permitting
Most farmers, ranchers, and food artisans purchase permits from local health departments in order to conduct business within that health department’s jurisdiction. The problem is that Texas is home to over 150 public health jurisdictions.
Some counties (including Travis) are even broken down into multiple jurisdictions, meaning that if a farmer or rancher wants to sell at farmers’ markets in Downtown Austin, Sunset Valley, and Bee Caves, they would need to purchase three identical permits, each pledging to adhere to the same set of state regulations.
With a price tag of up to $622 each (per year, per jurisdiction), the cost of duplicate permitting can add up for small farms and ranches. Permitting reform isn’t sexy, but it could remove a subtle yet pernicious barrier to small farm viability.
Texas SNAP Incentive Study Bill:
Programs like the SFC Double Dollars, which doubles the value of SNAP benefits when they’re spent on fresh fruit and vegetables, have grown in popularity around the nation. We’re joining our friends at the American Heart Association (AHA) in urging the State of Texas to study the impact of nutrition incentives in Texas.
Armed with hard data and best practices from across Texas (and the United States), we believe this bill represents the first step towards a statewide action plan to encourage consumption of fruits and vegetables.
Expand the Texas Cottage Food Laws:
In 2011, the Texas Legislature passed the state’s “Cottage Food” law, which exempts foods that pose limited food safety risks (like bread and pickles) from some regulations if they are produced on a small scale and sold directly to consumers. This bill has allowed countless bakers and food artisans to access markets and grow their businesses.
However, as the Texas Tribune recently noted, legislative clarity on a few of the law’s provisions is much needed. SFC is joining groups like the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance to urge the Legislature to clarify (among other things) that cucumbers are just one of a number of vegetables that can be safely pickled. The law would also expand Cottage Food protections to frozen fruits and vegetables, as well as fermented foods.
In the coming months, we’ll be spotlighting each of these issues in greater depth and talking to farmers and ranchers who would directly benefit from each bill.