Constituent policy

Members discuss Texas Farm Bureau policy for 2023

By Julie Tomascik

Property taxes, solar leases, right to farm and the upcoming farm bill were among the topics discussed at Texas Farm Bureau (TFB) policy meetings across the state.

Policy development meetings are part of the process of creating the organization’s roadmap for the coming year, allowing members to surface and discuss potential policy changes.

“As a grassroots organization, Farm Bureau policy begins with our members, and their policies guide the state and national organization,” said Brant Wilbourn, associate director of product and regulatory operations for TFB. “Policy meetings are instrumental in our organization’s planning for the next year. Each TFB district has different issues that are important to the region, but they are also important to agriculture and rural life throughout the state.

About 600 county leaders representing nearly 160 counties attended the district meetings.

Landowners noted that property taxes continue to rise and stressed the importance of maintaining agricultural use assessment.

“Farmers and ranchers continue to grapple with supply chain issues, soaring inflation and fuel costs, unpredictable weather and other challenges. The increase in property taxes right now is another issue that is unnecessary,” Wilbourn said.

Solar panels are popping up across the Lone Star State, fueling concern about unintended consequences to the state’s natural resources. Managed open spaces are being converted to industrial solar complexes without consideration of stormwater runoff, erosion prevention, and downstream water quality.

“The solar industry is growing at a rapid pace and landowners have many questions and concerns,” Wilbourn said. “Members have consistently spoken about environmental issues and the reliability of these renewable energy resources.”

And as Texas becomes increasingly urban, the state’s “right to farm” law needs to be strengthened.

Current law only protects farms annexed after August 31, 1981. But urban sprawl and local government regulations could jeopardize the future of some farms and ranches.

Members shared personal stories of city ordinances impacting their ability to farm and raise within city limits.

“Some municipal ordinances prohibit many, and sometimes all, normal farming practices, such as ranching and raising cattle, producing hay, and growing certain row crops,” Wilbourn said. “Discussions have been held about changes to the state’s agricultural code to preserve and strengthen statutory protections for the right to farm.”

The 2023 Farm Bill is on the horizon, and Texas farmers and ranchers have been discussing what it takes to have a strong safety net.

“Over the years, the Farm Bill has evolved to meet the needs of today’s voters – farmers, ranchers and consumers,” Wilbourn said. “There has been a lot of talk about commodity programs in the Farm Bill. The role of agriculture in food security, and therefore national security, is extremely important.

Other policy topics discussed included foreign land ownership, trade, and ways to encourage and support young and beginning farmers. Possible changes to federal programs like the Environmental Quality Incentive Program to help producers clean reservoirs and other practices during droughts were also discussed.

County agricultural bureaus must submit policy resolutions that were passed at their annual meeting to the state office by Oct. 28.

State and national policy proposals approved by county agricultural offices will be considered by the TFB’s resolutions committee in November.

The committee’s recommendations will then be forwarded to the TFB annual meeting in December for consideration by voting delegates.