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What the 2017 Census of Agriculture says about Texas Farms and Ranches

The U.S. Census is critically important. It allocates government spending, political representation, and guides regional planning.

Just as important is the Census of Agriculture. It gives policymakers and organizations like SFC a guide on how we can structure our priorities based on facts on the ground (or, rather, the “facts in the ground”).

Our friends at Civil Eats have done a terrific multi-part blog series detailing the national trends found in the 2017 Census of Agriculture. In fact, we enjoyed it so much we wanted to learn more about what it says about Texas because, as we all know, “it’s like a whole other country.”

The 2017 Census of Agriculture for Texas is kind of a downer. Between 2012 and 2015, the total value of...

Lightsey Farms Texas Peaches

The Texas Legislature, which adjourned last week, delivered multiple wins for local agriculture and the fight against food insecurity. Three of our top priorities passed this session. If signed by the Governor, the following reforms will become law:

Lightsey Farms - Hands with Texas box and Peaches

As the saying goes, “all politics is local.” That’s why grassroots advocacy is so important.

Last week, we were honored to take part in Local Foods Awareness Day at the Texas Capitol, hosted by our friends at the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA). We covered a lot of ground! Dozens of farmers, ranchers, food entrepreneurs, and farmers’ market managers from across the state met with our State Representatives and Senators to urge passage of bills that will strengthen the local food system in Texas.

Heading into the home stretch of the 86th Legislative Session, more of our priority bills are still standing than in any Session in recent memory. Here are just a few of the bills that have a real shot at becoming law in the next three weeks:

WIC at Market

Two SFC-supported bills (SB 1834, HB 3541) working their way through the Texas Legislature would lay the foundation for statewide action on SNAP Incentive Programs, which double the value of Lone Star benefits (food stamps) when they’re spent on fresh, Texas-grown produce.

While close to $100 million in federal funding has been distributed to support SNAP incentives since 2014, Texas applicants have only received $100,000 in federal matching funds.

The Farm Bill passed in December includes $250 million in federal funds to support SNAP incentive programs through the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program. Texas can’t afford to sit on the sidelines. We need to take these programs statewide.

SB 1834 and HB 3541 would empower the Texas Department of Health and Human...

Texas Capitol.jpg

SFC’s agenda for the Texas Legislative session took its first steps last week when two of our top three priority bills were introduced in the Texas Senate and House of Representatives. Austin’s own Eddie Rodriguez and Senator Lois Kolkhorst (Brenham) introduced legislation that seeks to expand Texas’ Cottage Food Law (House Bill 2108, Senate Bill 572).

Improvements include clarifying what constitutes a pickle (yes, we’re serious) as well as extending Cottage Food protections to fermented, and some canned foods. The House version of the bill also includes a provision—supported by SFC—that would allow farmers producing on a small scale to sell frozen fruits and vegetables directly to consumers.

Bills (Senate Bill 932, House Bill 2009) aimed at tackling the issue of burdensome permitting for small farmers and...

WIC at Market

As the old adage goes, “everyone does better when everyone does better.” One of the ways that we can do better here in Texas is by ensuring that all of our neighbors can access and afford nourishing food. Here at SFC, we think that “everyone” also includes farmers.

SNAP incentive programs increase the purchasing power of SNAP recipients when they spend their SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) benefits on Texas-grown produce. SNAP incentive programs offer a one to one match for every SNAP dollar spent at a participating market. This is a win/win/win: Low-income families eat more healthy food, area farmers gain new customers and make more money, and more food dollars stay in the local economy.

Last Tuesday, we hosted a gathering of more than 30 state and national leaders in the fields of health and food security to lay the foundation for coordinated approach to grow SNAP incentive programs in Texas. Representatives from the USDA, Fair Food Network, Texas Hunger Initiative, San Antonio Food Bank, American Heart Association, Texas Center for Local Food, Grow North...

Lightsey Farms

This is it. It’s make or break time for the 2018 Farm Bill. Only a few days remain for Congress to finish a new bill or pass a temporary extension of the old one. Either way, farmers and communities are counting on action. What’s at stake?

● Hands-on training and tools for beginning farmers and ranchers.

● Support for cutting-edge organic and sustainable research.

● New infrastructure – like ‘food hubs’ and innovative marketing tools – that helps farmers take advantage of ever-growing demand for local and regional food.

These are the programs in the bill that give farmers the tools to grow and succeed, and to harness economic opportunities across the nation.

There’s a problem, though. Nearly a dozen “tiny but mighty” farm bill programs will be left unable to operate if Congress doesn’t act fast: 140 million dollars for sustainable and organic agriculture, economic development, and beginning and underserved farmer support will literally just disappear. And that’s not all - just over a billion dollars in funding, largely for conservation and...

Joy at Rainier Beach

Pictured: Joy Casnovsky at Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands in Seattle, during the NSAC summer meeting.


At this point in the session, any bill that has not at least gotten a committee hearing has no real chance of passing. Only one bill (HB 950/SB 330) that we support has gotten a hearing and we need help getting this bill to the finish line! For additional information about this bill, visit Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance.


Texas Senate Bill 1172 would prevent cities and counties from regulating any seed “in any manner, including planting seed or cultivating plants grown from seed.” The language about “cultivating” means that it’s not just about the seeds themselves, but the things the farmers use to grow the plants – including pesticides and herbicides that can kill other crops, crash bee populations, and harm human health.

TAKE ACTION: Local elected representatives need to retain their ability to protect their communities!

Call or email your State Representative and Senator and urge them to OPPOSE SB 1172 & its companion bill, HB 2758.

You can find out who your State legislators are by going to...


HB 231 / SB 700: Fair Property Taxes for Small Farmers by Representative Eddie Rodriguez & Senator Judith Zaffirini[1]

  • Currently, counties make it simple for people raising hay, livestock, or conventional row crops to get agricultural valuation which significantly lowers property taxes.
  • However, they often make it difficult or impossible for people raising vegetables for farmers’ markets, pastured poultry, or using organic methods.
  • Many small-scale or urban farmers are paying taxes based on the value of their land if it were to be developed.
  • HB 231 and SB 700 clarify the tax code by specifying that fruit and vegetable production qualify as “agricultural uses” and directing the Comptroller to convene stakeholder groups to develop clear guidelines for ag valuation qualification.
  • This bill could save small farmers thousands of dollars annually in property taxes.
  • Last session, a very similar bill was passed...
Ottmers Farm Picking Tomatoes

Spring has sprung at the Texas Capitol! The birds are chirping, the peach trees are blooming, and yours truly (Alex Canepa) is sweating buckets in a necktie. One thing we aren’t sweating is S.B. 776, a bill recently filed by state Senator Judith Zaffirini that would create a full-time position (known as an “ombudsman”) in the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.

This person would be tasked with helping small farmers, ranchers, food businesses, and farmers markets navigate the byzantine world of permits, programs, and state agencies.