Action Alert: Texas HB 2084 and HB 3387

Call your Texas state legislator to support important local food bills today!

Right now, anyone who wants to bake a few pies or make a few jars of jam to sell to their friends and neighbors must have a commercial kitchen and be inspected by the state.  The regulatory requirements can cost over ten thousand dollars, hurting small businesses and preventing start-ups from having a chance.

HB 2084, the local and “cottage foods” bill, would allow small-scale producers selling low-risk foods — baked goods, jams, and dried herbs — directly to consumers to do so without these expenses.  The bill benefits local economies and small businesses by removing unnecessary regulatory burdens and promoting local food production.  HB 2084 recognizes that food produced on a small-scale and sold directly to consumers is different than food produced by the massive industrialized system in which the major food safety problems have occurred.

Additionally, HB 2084 helps local foods even more by calling for legislative hearings on issues such as the regulatory fees imposed on artisan cheesemakers, the barriers to food stamp beneficiaries being able to buy fresh produce at farmers markets, and the property tax problems faced by community gardens, urban farms, and sustainable farmers.

Another local foods bill, HB 3387, would establish clear, reasonable standards for farmers’ markets and protect against some unduly burdensome regulations.

HB 2084 and HB 3387 provide vital support for the local foods movement in Texas.  Please help us get these wonderful bills passed!  The deadline for the Texas House to approve House Bills is this week, so we need your calls in support as soon as possible.

TAKE ACTION
1) Call your State Representative and urge him or her to vote YES on HB 2084 and HB 3387.

You can call the Capitol Switchboard at 512-463-4630 and ask to be connected to your Representative’s office, or you can look up who represents you online at http://action.fooddemocracynow.org/go/374?akid=315.45122.vqCcCQ&t=2

The legislators are working long hours, so you can call at any time of the day.  If you get their voice mail, leave a message saying: “Hi, my name is ____.   I am a constituent.  I urge Representative ______ to vote Yes on both HB 2084 and HB 3387.  Thank you.”

2) Call your State Senator (find them at the same link above) and ask him or her to sponsor HB 2084 and HB 3387 and support them in the Senate.  “Hi, my name is ____.   I am a constituent.  I urge you to support both HB 2084 and HB 3387.  Thank you.”

MORE INFORMATION

You can read the full text of HB 2084 and HB 3387 on the Texas legislative website

Under current law, anyone who prepares any food for sale must have a commercial kitchen license.  The cost of a commercial kitchen can be prohibitive for start-up businesses and small-scale producers.

HB 2084 would allow small-scale producers selling specific low-risk foods directly to consumers to do so without the expense and burdens of the current commercial kitchen requirements. The listed foods are baked goods, jams, jellies, and dried herbs, all of which are recognized as non-hazardous by FDA. Individuals selling less than $50,000 of these foods directly to consumers either from their own home or at a farmers market would be exempt from regulation.

At least eighteen other states have similar laws already on the books: Alabama, Connecticut, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Wyoming.

HB 2084 was unanimously approved by the Public Health Committee. Over 150 people and organizations registered in support, including Slow Food Austin, Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, Sustainable Food Center, Texas Impact, and Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association.

HB 2084 also helps local foods by calling for legislative hearings on the following issues:

*  Helping small-scale cheesemakers: Due to a 2007 bill, fees on small-scale cheesemakers and dairy producers have gone up from as little as $52/yr to as much as $600/yr, depending on the size of the producer and their source of milk.  These fees threaten to drive small producers out of business.

*  Improving access to healthy, local foods for low-income individuals: The SNAP program (formerly Food Stamps) is administered at the state level using Electronic Benefits Transfer (“EBT”), similar to debit cards. The state provides EBT terminals to retailers, but these wired terminals are not practical for outdoor farmers’ markets. Farmers markets provide access to fresh fruits and vegetables in “food deserts” and underserved communities with less overhead expense and construction time as compared to establishing a supermarket or grocery store.

*  Providing for fair property tax treatment: Under Section 23.51 of the Tax Code, “qualified open space land” includes land “devoted principally to agricultural use to the degree of intensity generally accepted in the area.” But community gardens, urban farms, family farms raising fruits and vegetables, and sustainable livestock farms have often been denied fair property tax valuations under the claim that they are not truly “agricultural” uses.  If the land is being used primarily to produce food to feed people, it should be valued as such.

HB 3387, the “farmers’ market bill,” sets clear, reasonable standards for sampling foods at farmers markets; clarifies that permits can be granted to prepare food on-site year-round, without limitations on the number of days; and bars unnecessary and burdensome regulations that require mechanical refrigeration to keep foods cold.

From raw milk to farmers markets, local farmers and consumers face regulatory barriers that limit access to high quality foods unnecessarily burden producers. Several bills have been filed in the Texas Legislature to help local farmers and consumers, but they haven’t been set for a hearing yet.

We need your help to move these bills forward before it’s too late!

For more information, please visit our friends at www.FarmAndRanchFreedom.org  or www.fooddemocracynow.org

Thank you to Food Democracy Now for the above text to help us organize our efforts to affect legislation.

There’s an Extra Seat at Our Table- Refer a Friend and Help Grow a Farm

There are lots of great CSAs in the Austin area (seriously, you really can’t go wrong!), but Farmhouse Delivery is the one that I’ve stuck with for some of the best in all-local produce, pastured meats and dairy, fresh eggs, herbs and a growing list of artisanal products..

“Turn good eating into a revolution! Locally raised and produced food is better tasting, better for the environment, better for our local economy, and better for your health.”

“Now YOU can help revive the family farm, reconnect with the seasons, and reap the rewards with a Farmhouse Delivery Membership. Fall season begins August 16th and our farmers need to know how much to plant and allocate for this bountiful harvest. Limited Membership helps ensure we deliver the highest-quality seasonal produce, meat, dairy, and artisanal products to your home!”

The Fall Season starts on August 16th, so if you’re ready to join go here to signup and mention “@EdibleAria” in the comments box during checkout for a chance for both of us to win a local, free-range turkey OR two free weeks of produce delivery!

“What’s in season this fall?  Look for late-season tomatoes, heirloom peppers, pumpkins, butternut squash, cherry tomatoes, persimmons, broccoli, cauliflower, greens, beans, corn, sweet potatoes, radishes & more!”

“Have more questions about how farm membership works? visit the FAQ page for more details.”

(Re)introducing the SFC Farmers’ Market at Sunset Valley

Many of the 55+ certified growers-only farmers, food vendors and artisans at “the market that stayed in Sunset Valley” have been serving the South Austin community for several years now.  Having lived in the area and visited the market many times, I can assure you that from Animal Farm to Zubik House and everything in between, these amazing producers are dedicated to bringing you the best in local, sustainable products.

A project of the non-profit Sustainable Food Center, the Farmers’ Market at Sunset Valley also offers an ATM (tokens) and accepts the Lone Star Food Stamp card (tokens).  Did I mention 17 acres of free parking?

The Sunset Valley market is open Saturdays from 9am to 1pm, rain or shine – please stop by & say hi, grab some incredible food and help support this vibrant, growing community.


3200 Jones Road, at the Toney Burger Center off Hwy. 290/71 eastbound access road,
just west of the intersection of Brodie Lane and Hwy. 290/71 East
the same location as always!

Cedar Park Farmers Market

Cedar Park Farms To Market is now serving the NW Austin/Cedar Park/Leander area!

Vendors include some familiar names like Amador Farms (hydroponic lettuces and greens) and Sweetish Hill (breads and baked goods).  Rockin B will be selling grassfed beef and goat and she’ll even have yak meat available once each month (yes, yak meat) from a ranch outside of Weatherford.  The market is every Saturday from 9 am to 1 pm and will be located in the Lakeline Mall parking lot behind Dillard’s (11200 Lakeline Mall Dr. Cedar Park, TX 78613).

Some of the market crew

For directions and more information, please visit the market’s website