House Bill 970, also known as the cottage foods bill, by Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin; HB 1382, the farmers’ market bill, by Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview; and HB 1392, the Department of State Health Services Better Communications Act, by Rep. Susan King, R-Abilene, were all signed into law last week by Gov. Perry. Despite strong ties between legislators and corporate agriculture’s lobbying arm, the local food movement is gaining traction among citizens. Broad grassroots support was evident this session as the bills overcame considerable opposition from both the Texas Retailers Association and the Texas Municipal League.
These bills undoubtedly increase support to small family farms, though the session was not without its disappointments. According to Judith McGeary, executive director of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance: “The local food movement is growing by leaps and bounds. Just a few years ago, legislators had no idea that there even was such a thing as ‘a local foods movement.’ In a session notable for the number of bills that died without being voted on, the fact that three separate local foods bills passed reflects the legislators’ awareness of the many benefits this movement provides, for both rural and urban communities.”
Both the cottage foods and farmers’ market bills were supported by the Texas House Farm-to-Table Caucus, the only one of its kind in the nation. “The Texas Farm-to-Table Caucus had a great first session,” said caucus chair Rodriguez. “We educated many of my colleagues on important food issues ranging from sampling at farmers markets to the cottage foods industry. Even more importantly, we were able to bring a bipartisan base of support to these issues from the outset.”