Texas Legislature to Study Interim Farming Fees

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By Julie Tomascik
Editor

Provisional commission fees have been announced for the Texas Senate and the Texas House.

In the non-legislative year, policy matters are assigned to committees in the Texas Senate by Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and to the Texas House by Speaker Dade Phelan. Representatives of the agency, organizations and other experts are often invited to testify on matters relating to various committees.

As first-year lawmakers and their seasoned colleagues return to Austin, Texas Farm Bureau (TFB) leaders and staff prepare to advocate for agriculture and the organization’s priority issues.

“The interim studies are seen as a kind of unofficial starting point to prepare for the next legislative session,” said TFB state legislative director Charlie Leal. “Throughout the process, Farm Bureau legislative staff worked closely with legislators and their staff to ensure that issues important to TFB members were included.”

The charges help guide the Senate and House as we approach the 88th Parliament, which is expected to begin in January 2023.

Texas Senate Provisional Fees
Property tax relief, supply chains, rural connectivity and meatpacking facilities are among the draft topics the Senate is considering.

The Finance Committee will review property taxes and recommend ways to reduce the burden. Senators will consider and report on proposals to use or devote state revenues beyond the state spending limit to eliminate property tax on school district maintenance and operations.

Supply chain issues emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Business and Commerce Committee will study recent issues and recommend actions to mitigate future disruptions.

The business and commerce committee will also oversee the implementation of legislation that would expand broadband throughout rural Texas.

The need for additional meatpacking facilities in the Lone Star State will be one of the areas the Water, Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee will focus on this year. They will assess and report on increased costs to Texas ranchers and lost revenue to the Texas economy when meatpacking facilities are used outside of Texas.

“These are matters of major concern to our members, to all of Texas agriculture, and to rural communities,” Leal said.

Texas House interim charges
The Chamber will study feral hogs, farming rights, groundwater permits and border security, among others.

The Agriculture and Livestock Committee will focus on the Experimental Use Program for Feral Hog Reduction and the Right to Farm in Texas.

A state budget rider, passed in last year’s legislative session, allocates funds to the Texas Department of Agriculture and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service to research and develop alternative methods of pest control. feral pigs, including a feral pig poison that has been approved by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, but is not yet available in Texas. The interim fee will ensure proper legislative oversight of the program.

The Farm Load Law will study the impact that local government regulations and requirements have on agriculture, Leal noted.

The Natural Resources Committee will review the groundwater management policy and regulatory framework, and make recommendations on the permit application process.

The border security fee, which will also be considered by the Senate, will focus on the impact of Operation Lone Star. Legislators will identify and report on the resources needed to support the state’s National Guard, as well as the overall resources needed for border security for future legislative review.

“Feral hogs, the right to farm, groundwater and border security are major areas of concern for farmers, ranchers, landowners and the Farm Bureau,” Leal said. “Communication with lawmakers throughout mid-term allows us to share the needs of rural Texas.”

Other topics considered by the House that relate to agriculture include the Universal Service Fund, inflation, extraterritorial jurisdiction and powers of annexation, wildfires and prescribed burns, alternative fuel vehicles , rural employment, summer time and cattle rustling.

Throughout the year, the commissions will solicit testimonies and information on the various subjects.

“Farm Bureau and our members will be asked to testify on many of these topics as they relate to agriculture and rural Texas. If we are not invited, we will ask to testify in order to provide information from the perspective of our members,” Leal said.

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