Following each legislative session, the Texas Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the House assign interim charges for corresponding committees to study topics and develop strategic plans to guide future policymaking in the Texas Legislature. Recently, the Texas House received interim charges and committees will soon begin holding hearings to monitor the implementation of legislation passed during recent sessions, gather input from interested parties and citizens, and make policy recommendations for next session.
Given the recent release of interim charges, my subsequent columns will examine some of the issues important to our region that will be studied by each of our House committees over the coming months.
With that, our first committee will be the House Committee on Agriculture & Livestock.
House Interim Charge: Agriculture & Livestock
The House Committee on Agriculture & Livestock has jurisdiction over various agricultural matters ranging from livestock production to the vitality of our forest and wood products industry. This Committee also oversees a number of boards and state agencies, including the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA), Texas A&M Forest Service, and the State Soil and Water Conservation Board, just to name a few. Like many other committees, the House Committee on Agriculture & Livestock will spend time over the interim monitoring the agencies and programs under its jurisdiction that are responsible for ensuring the implementation of legislation passed during the 87th Legislature is working as intended.
Specifically, the Speaker has asked members of this Committee to monitor the implementation of HB 2089 and two budget riders, which serve to direct funding for specific purposes in the state budget. HB 2089 establishes an early plant pest detection and surveillance system through cooperative agreements with TDA and universities in the state. I am confident this system will benefit Texas agriculture as we work to combat plant pests and diseases.
The first rider directs TDA to conduct a study in determining methods to increase the number of grocery stores in areas of this state where access to fresh food and produce is scarce. Not every Texan has direct access to grocery stores, and I am hopeful this study will lead to potential policy changes that address this issue. The second rider allocates funding to TDA and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service to research and develop further methods of feral hog control, including a feral hog toxicant that has been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency but is not yet available in Texas. If the study proves successful, Texas landowners will have access to an additional tool to deal with feral hogs that continue to wreak havoc on landowners.
The Committee has also been charged with studying the state’s agriculture industry and its access to available capital through loans, grants, and other sources to determine how TDA can better inform farmers and agricultural producers on opportunities to access additional capital to support their operations. The Agriculture and Livestock Committee members will also study agricultural operations and the impact of governmental and regulatory requirements and make recommendations to facilitate and encourage agricultural and dairy production in the state. I believe this is an important step to removing unnecessary regulation that might impede or prohibit an activity that is a normally considered an acceptable agricultural practice, while also establishing a more efficient regulatory environment to attract more professionals to the industry.
As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office if we can help you in any way. My district office may be reached at (936) 634-2762. Additionally, I welcome you to follow along on my Official Facebook Page, where I will be posting regular updates on what’s happening in your State Capitol and sharing information that could be useful to you and your family: https://www.facebook.com/RepTrentAshby/