Lawmakers are thinking locally at the Capitol.
Texas House members will hear two bills today that seek to loosen rules on local agriculture by lowering restriction of raw milk sales to consumers and placing a cap on the amount of taxes levied on farmers at local markets.
HB 910 would place a restriction on permits given to farmers by cities at $50, with the renewable permits lasting at least a year.
Judith McGeary, executive director of Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, said that the bill will combat a recurring roadblock for those selling at markets. In a survey last year, McGeary said that one of the biggest issue among statewide farmers market organizers were fees imposed by local entities.
“Part of the problem is that farmers don’t have a profit margin in order to even cover the permits,” McGeary said. “It’s not an issue of farmers out there getting rich and looking to keep money away from the government. The small farmers at farmers market have very low profit margins in general.”
State regulation has also affected dairy farmers profit margins. Currently dairy farmers can’t sell raw milk directly to their customers, a practice that forces customers to drive directly to farms to buy the milk.
HB 46 looks to allow direct sales of milk to customers and lift the barrier between customers and farmers that, if violated, could cost dairy farmers their livelihood. McGeary said recently one farmer had his license revoked by the state after delivering directly to a home in San Antonio and was forced to pour out $5,000 worth of milk. You can read more about the push for lactose tolerance at StateImpact Texas.
The House Public Health Committee will hear public testimony on the bills today, starting at 8 a.m. in the Capitol.