ISSUES & POLICY Where We Stand
By Robert E. McKnight, president, Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association
In this last month of this year’s regular session of the Texas Legislature, it is a good time to report to members of Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA) that your association leaders have worked hard to create more transparency and fairness in the eminent domain condemnation process.
We have also worked hard on other issues important to ranchers and landowners.
By the time the session ends this year, we will have tracked well more than 600 bills on issues that range from animal cruelty to water rights to forced annexation.
No one can fault well-intentioned legislators for considering bills that seem right when read in Austin but would be disastrous on ranches outside Albany or Anahuac.
Fortunately, the Texas agriculture community and industry have a great deal of respect at the Capitol.
Many of the urban and suburban representatives and senators are cognizant of the needs of rural Texas, of agriculture and cattle producers.
Our role as an association of landowners is to inform them how a bill could impact us, their constituents.
We are often the ones who point out the unintended consequences of a bill or a problem it might cause rural Texas.
Animal health bills are sometimes written overly broad. They may be intended for pets, but the effect of the bill would be a completely different reality when applied to beef cattle production.
Without the hours of help from our members who go to the Capitol to testify, or who call their state senators and representatives, many of our urban and suburban legislators would not know a problem or consequence could exist.
It is incumbent on us to support the things that benefit our members, and just as important to oppose those that may harm your ability to ranch.
At least two dozen bills regarding agriculture and open space valuation were proposed this year. While we supported many, it might surprise you to know that TSCRA leaders opposed a bill that would have broadened the language of open space and agricultural valuation. Our concern was that the overly broad language might have led to misuse of agricultural land as a tax shelter for non-agricultural landowners and a useful tool might have become a target to be removed.
Our volunteer committee leaders, directors and officers set the foundation for our policies through careful and sometimes lengthy discussion.
As your association president and one who has spent time with my state legislators, let me say thank you to the Private Property Rights and Tax Committee and all the TSCRA members across our state who are generous with their time and knowledge, helping us all remember the intention of the TSCRA members when a policy was developed. Thank you for being available at a moment’s notice to give up-to-the-minute guidance on the effects of a bill. This years-long and collective effort creates a strong voice in Austin.
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