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Texas Lawmakers Seek to Update Right to Farm Act to Protect Farmers from Urban Sprawl

Right to Farm Act in Texas
Texas lawmakers seek to change the "Rights to Farm Act." (Photo: DTN)

Texas lawmakers are pushing for an update to the 40-year-old Right to Farm Act that was designed to protect farmers and ranchers from urban sprawl.

Right to Farm Act in Texas

Texas lawmakers seek to change the “Rights to Farm Act.” (Photo: DTN)

Right to Farm Act in 1981

The Right to Farm Act was passed in 1981 to promote the development of agricultural land for the production of food and other products. However, farmers and ranchers are now being held accountable to laws and regulations from cities and municipalities they were not initially part of. This is due to the urban sprawl that has taken place in recent years.

At a committee meeting in Austin, North Texas hay producer James Lockridge told lawmakers about the battle he has fought over the past several years. He explained that “Just one city alone has cost me over $150,000. Farmers Branch, Texas mowed every single crop I had in 2021. And their reasoning is it’s a nuisance,” according to a published article in AUDACY.

The Right to Farm Act contains a provision that allows entities to find farmers and ranchers if their operation poses a threat to the health and safety of the community. Lawmakers are now looking to tighten this loophole. House Bill 1750 proposed by Republican Representative Dewayne Burns would force cities and municipalities to prove there’s a long-term effect on health and safety before issuing a citation or assessing a penalty.

READ ALSO: Texas Senate Approves Property Tax Cut

Why There is a Need to Change the “Right to Farm Act”?

Last month, at a committee hearing for the bill in Austin, several farmers and ranchers told stories about thousands of dollars in fines they had been forced to pay. Many, like John Paul Dineen III, the District 4 State Director for the Texas Farm Bureau, said the alleged “health effects” in farming communities are temporary.

HB 1750 passed the committee and is heading to the full Texas House of Representatives for consideration. Representative Burns said he hopes lawmakers pass the bill, for all of Texas, not just farmers and ranchers. “This bill protects the family farm and the folks that used to live in a rural community but, through no fault of their own, now find themselves surrounded by new neighbors and new regulations.”

READ ALSO: Texas Lawmakers Unveils ‘Largest Property Tax Cut’

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