Public Hearing on Two Local Food Bills
HB 46 and HB 910 would increase support to family farms
By Anna Toon, 6:00PM, Fri. Mar. 1
Over 100 Texans showed up in support of HB 46 at the Capitol on Wednesday. Introduced to the Texas House Public Health Committee and sponsored by Rep. Dan Flynn (R-Canton), HB 46 would allow licensed dairy farmers to sell raw milk at farmers’ markets, make home deliveries, and allow for other delivery arrangements with their customers.
This is critical: For many raw milk advocates, the availability of raw milk has as much to do with consumption as it does liberty. The current system allows for sales of raw milk to occur on the producer’s farm only. HB 46 would increase accessibility as getting to a dairy isn’t always convenient or possible. As the number of family-owned dairy farms has decreased, raw milk has allowed farmers to remain financially and environmentally sustainable. As raw milk dairy farmer Bob Stryk, of Stryk Jersey Farm in Schulenberg, Texas, asserted: “What is the difference economically between conventional milk and raw for retail milk? It is the life or death of a dairy farm.”
HB 910 also went before the committee on Wednesday. Sponsored by Rep. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) and co-authored by Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin), chair of the bipartisan Farm-to-Table Food Caucus, HB 910 would limit the health permit fees for farmers and farmers’ market vendors at $50 per year per county or city. The Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, the Sustainable Food Center, and two farmers' market organizers testified to the committee in favor of the bill. In addition, over 80 Texans registered their support of the bill. According to Andrew Smiley, deputy director of the Sustainable Food Center, “House Bill 910 is about economic development – supporting financially viable markets for family farmers. And it’s about access to healthy food – keeping producers’ costs down so prices of healthy food remain accessible for consumers.”