TAC is a proud advocate for legislation that supports Texas farmers, ranchers, and agricultural businesses. We are eager to put our resources towards supporting and strengthening this vital industry.
Texas’ Right to Farm statute was enacted in 1981 to “conserve, protect, and encourage the development and improvement of its agricultural land for the production of food and other agricultural products.” The law limits the circumstances in which “agricultural operations may be regulated or considered to be a nuisance,” provided they present no public health or safety concern.
Despite these protections, burdensome municipal ordinances and nuisance actions have obstructed many lawful, compliant agricultural operations in Texas. The 88th Texas Legislature addressed this issue by strengthening and updating the state’s existing right to farm protections. TAC was active in the effort to pass HB 1750, HB 2308, and HJR 126, the bills that improved these protections.
HJR 126, proposing a Texas constitutional amendment protecting the right to engage in farming, ranching, timber production, horticulture, and wildlife management, will be on the Texas constitutional amendment ballot in November 2023. Support the right to farm and vote “YES” this fall to enshrine these protections in the Texas Constitution.
Farming, ranching, and other agricultural businesses are capital-intensive. The rising costs of land, machinery, infrastructure, and other inputs necessary to start and maintain a successful agricultural business mean that accessible capital is more important than ever.
The Texas Agricultural Finance Authority (TAFA) was established in 1987 to provide financial assistance, in the form of loans and grants, to eligible agricultural businesses. Programs administered through TAFA include the Young Farmer Grant Program, the Agricultural Loan Guarantee Program, and the Interest Rate Reduction Program. These programs are intended to support existing agricultural businesses and make it easier for new farmers and ranchers to get their start in the industry.
During the 88th Texas Legislature's regular session, TAC called specific attention to the need for additional funding and support for Texas' young farmers. The 88th Texas Legislature appropriated $500,000 to the Young Farmer Grant Program for the 2024-2025 biennium, the first direct appropriation in the program's history.
In 2022, more than 3,000 boil water notices were issued across Texas, in part a result of aging and poor water infrastructure. Rural communities in East Texas were those hit hardest. While the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) is designed to fund water infrastructure projects that might remedy this issue, rural communities often lack the capacity to apply for these funds.
Furthermore, Texas’ growing water needs place additional stress on its aging water infrastructure. Given increasing demand, the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) projects potential annual water shortages of 4.7 million acre-feet by 2030 and 5.3 million acre-feet by 2040. These shortages will reduce the availability of water for farms, ranches, agricultural businesses, and rural communities.
The 88th Texas Legislature passed SB 28 to address these challenges. SB 28 creates the Texas Water Fund, designed to assist in financing water projects, and the Water Supply for Texas Fund, designed to increase Texas' water supplies by 7 million acre-feet over the next 10 years.
SJR 75, proposing a Texas constitutional amendment to authorize the Texas Water Fund, will be on the ballot this November. The measure has TAC's full support.
Texas leads the nation in farmland owned by foreign entities. According to a 2017 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, foreign investors owned over 3 million acres of farmland in Texas. By December 2021, that number had grown to over 5.2 million acres. Entities from Canada, Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, and Mexico own the largest shares of foreign-owned land in Texas (USDA 2021). Oftentimes, this foreign investment in farmland brings important economic growth and development to Texas and its rural communities.
It is also important; however, to recognize the potential for foreign governments to threaten our state and national security with the acquisition of Texas farmland. China, a country with a history of counterintelligence and economic espionage efforts directed at the United States, warrants particular concern. As of 2021, entities from China owned 191,919 acres of Texas farmland.
Effective legislation will addresses these national security concerns while maintaining the opportunity for private property owners to sell their land to well-intentioned foreign entities with genuine business interests. Reporting is also an important component of legislation on this issue, as currently available data is limited.
TAC offers $2,500 scholarships for two Texas high school seniors to pursue further education related to the agriculture industry. We hope to lower barriers for the next generation of Texas producers to learn the skills and knowledge necessary to make them successful members of the community. Click the link below to download and submit our scholarship application form.