By Darren Turley, TAD executive director

The Texas Association of Dairymen has been very busy working on your behalf on a number of fronts.

Every two years during the spring, much of our effort is focused on the Texas Legislature, which meets for 140 days. Session is one-third over and is moving at an increasingly rapid pace. TAD staff has been working hard to visit with many of our legislators from across the state. These visits include lawmakers who are old friends, as well as some new to the Capitol who are not familiar with dairy or agriculture issues.

TAD’s Board will join us on Tuesday, Feb. 26, when it makes its biennial visit to the Capitol to visit with key legislators and their staffs. Hearing directly from dairy farmers themselves makes a much bigger impact than hearing only from TAD staff. Watch TAD’s Facebook page or see our March newsletter for a full report on the TAD Board’s time in Austin.

I have been asked to testify on the state of the dairy industry to an upcoming meeting by the House Agriculture & Livestock Committee. Did you know you can watch committee proceedings, or even meetings of the full Texas House or Senate online, either live or archived? More informally, we continually report on the needs of Texas farmers to legislators, other elected officials, regulators and the media.

For example, I recently met with Texas Agriculture Commission Sid Miller to discuss the industry’s struggle with labor and to update him on our legislative issues.

TAD staff also has met with Texas Commission on Environmental Quality staff on milk disposal in case it is necessary to dispose of several loads of milk at one time, in the event of a severe weather issue or a mechanical breakdown at one of the state’s large plants.

I also have been invited to serve on a binational working group to help develop a plan to eradicate Tuberculosis in Mexico’s dairy herd of Mexico. The Mexican states along the U.S. border are being asked to support this plan and encourage their government to support these endeavors in the future.

On another animal health issue, the Texas Animal Health Commission has formed a working group to undertake a rule change for BVD in our state’s cattle herd. This disease is not a large issue for Texas dairy farmers due to our longstanding vaccination. But beef cattle producers are struggling with infected animals significantly impacting the health and weight gain of cattle. I represent the dairy industry in the program’s rulemaking process.

There is no shortage of work to protect today’s dairy farmers, but that is what Texas Association of Dairymen does relentlessly.

Dairy farmers prepare for the Capitol, committee hearings, more new members and property tax reform debate

By Shayne Woodard, J Pete Laney and Lauren Spreen

After a President’s Day break, it’s full speed ahead for the Texas Legislature, with committees now meeting to consider bills. It won’t be long until we see our first votes on the House and Senate floors. So far more than 2,700 bills have been filed, with a filing deadline of March 8.

Groups representing different associations and industries are starting to bring their members to the Capitol to host rallies, hold press conferences, visit with legislative members and staffs, and basically work to deliver their message on their issues.

TAD’s Board will be in Austin on Feb. 26 for their turn to have their voices heard at the Texas Capitol on issues of importance to the Texas dairy industry. It’s always valuable for dairy farmers to visit with members of the Legislature who are not familiar with dairy or agriculture issues. One area of focus will be TAD’s opposition to bills to expand the sale of unpasteurized (or raw) milk in Texas (House Bill 503 by Rep. Dan Flynn and Senate Bill 80 by Sen. Bob Hall).

If you can’t make a trip to Austin, you can make your views heard by emailing, writing or calling your state representative or senator on issues of concern to you.

Even though the legislative session is well underway, some representation is still being determined thanks to a domino effect from shifts in membership that occurred after the November general election.

State Rep. Justin Rodriguez (D-San Antonio) was appointed to the Bexar County Commissioners Court, leading to a special election for his District 125 House seat. Republican Fred Rangel and Democrat Ray Lopez led a field of five candidates. Gov. Greg Abbott will set a run-off date after the votes are canvassed.

In House District 145, Democrats Christina Morales and former State Rep. Melissa Noriega are the candidates for a March 5 special election runoff to replace Carol Alvarado (D-Houston), who moved to the Texas Senate after former Sen. Sylvia Garcia won her election to U.S. Congress.

Newly elected members will need to quickly get up to speed on one of the biggest issues of the legislative session, property tax relief.

The Senate Property Tax Committee has already passed Senate Bill 2, the Property Tax Reform & Relief Act of 2019. The committee discussed the bill and adopted 12 amendments before voting the SB 2 out of committee. One of the amendments gaining a lot of attention is to allow “small taxing units,” as defined in the bill, to require voter approval for tax revenue increases of more than 2.5 percent, a reduction of the current 8 percent threshold.

Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-McAllen), the only Democrat on the committee, voted “present-not-voting” on the motion to report SB 2 out of the committee favorably. Senator Hinojosa explained his vote saying, “While I support 97.5 percent of this bill, I cannot support the 2.5 percent ‘voter-approved rate’ currently in SB 2. While the existing 8 percent rate is too high, the 2.5 percent rate is too low and would jeopardize the ability of local governments to provide crucial services to their communities. There is no doubt that property tax appraisals are increasing faster than our paychecks. Property taxpayers need relief. However, we should find a balanced approach that does not tie the hands of our local elected officials and hinder their ability to provide basic services and public safety.”

While SB 2 would slow the growth of property – but not cut current rates, a new proposal by Rep. Drew Springer’s (R-Muenster) would. But it could cost you in other areas. Springer’s idea (he has not yet filed a bill as of press time) would raise $6.4 billion for local school property taxes relief by getting rid of some popular sales tax exemptions and rules. For example, motor fuel would be taxed, in addition to existing gasoline taxes, along with auto maintenance and repair services, non-prescription drugs and other items.

As always, your TAD team will be working on your behalf to monitor those bills and other legislation that could impact you.

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