Where does TSCRA Stand?
Texas Central Railway
WHEREAS, Texas Central Railway (TCR) is a proposed project to build a high-speed passenger rail line between the cities of Dallas and Houston; and
WHEREAS, the TCR is expected to require over 3,000 acres of right-of-way for the rail line and related infrastructure that will impact the private property of landowners in 11 counties; and
WHEREAS, while it is unclear whether or not TCR has the power of eminent domain, TCR plans to attempt to use this power to gain the land necessary to construct the project; and
WHEREAS, while this project is largely funded by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation and other privately funded investors and does not propose to use any federal or state funds, the long-term financial security and stability of the project remains uncertain and could eventually impact Texas taxpayers; and
WHEREAS, while the State of Texas is considering various transportation options to address a potential mobility crisis, TCR will not substantially help meet these needs, as it would only transport passengers from Dallas to Houston with no stops and still require additional transportation to and from rail stations; and
WHEREAS, rural communities and landowners will have no access to the line and receive no benefits of having the TCR in their area, property values in proximity to the rail line will be negatively impacted, and TCR will adversely affect the ability of ranchers to graze and move cattle, transport equipment, and effectively and efficiently use their property; and
WHEREAS, while TCR does not currently have plans to extend the project to cities outside of Dallas and Houston, this project does create the foundation for expansion into other cities and could negatively impact other landowners in the future; and
WHEREAS, the potential statewide implication of this unique project and set of factors warrants the involvement of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA); therefore, be it
RESOLVED, that TSCRA support legislative and regulatory efforts that limit the authority of high-speed passenger rail lines to use the power of eminent domain; and, be it further
RESOLVED, that TSCRA oppose the use of federal and state funding for the planning, acquisition of right of way, construction, and operation of high-speed passenger rail lines.
TSCRA is committed to working with our partners in the industry to ensure the highest level of care is given to cattle every step along the way and that the nation’s beef supply remains safe.
We urge all ranchers to continue to follow commonly accepted livestock and business management practices in animal health and care. Such practices are developed by veterinarians, animal scientists, agricultural engineers and animal well-being experts.
TSCRA strongly encourages ranchers to become trained in Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) practices and to become certified through their state’s BQA program. TSCRA offers free training to all ranchers through educational events held throughout the state.
TSCRA continues to work to defeat anti-agriculture legislation and regulatory action at the state and federal levels. TSCRA continues to inform policy makers and their staffs on the true agendas of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and other animal activist groups.
Animal Disease Traceability
On Feb. 5, 2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a framework for animal disease traceability in the U.S. The framework replaces the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) that was strongly opposed by numerous livestock industries and associations, including TSCRA. The proposed framework does not eliminate the need for continued brand inspection programs.
TSCRA remains engaged with state and federal animal health officials to ensure that any animal disease traceability program, such as this framework, is solely for the purpose of responding rapidly and effectively to animal health emergencies and does not affect ranchers’ ability to market cattle.
Cap and Trade
Legislation has been passed that will drastically increase the costs of fuel, electricity, feed, fertilizer, equipment and other production costs necessary to run a successful ranching business. The dramatic increase in costs could potentially put some ranchers out of business. Any carbon offsets granted to ranchers will not offset the drastic increase in operation costs.
TSCRA strongly opposes the House cap-and-trade bill because of the drastic increase in input costs.
Texas property owners do not have enough protections under current eminent domain laws. To level the playing field for property owners, TSCRA supports these changes to the law:
Require that more clear and advance notice and information be given to the property owner regarding the condemnation and the rights of the property owner.
Require that the condemning authority make a good faith, bona fide offer based on appraised fair market value of the property, share the appraisal with the property owner and require the condemning authority to negotiate in good faith.
Provide for compensation for all losses suffered by the property owner, including all losses caused by loss or diminish of access.
Require the condemning authority to pay the property owner all costs and expenses when the condemning authority misuses the legal process.
Provide that the condemning authority pay all costs and expenses to the property owner when the award by the special commission or the jury is greater than the condemning entity’s offer.
Allow the property owner the option to re-acquire the condemned property and all associated property rights, including mineral and groundwater rights, for the price paid by the condemning authority (not current market value) if the original governmental project causing the condemnation does not occur.
TSCRA has been a strong opponent of the estate tax and has worked for a full repeal of the estate tax for many years.
TSCRA supports the full and final repeal of the estate tax; however, until the estate tax is fully and finally repealed, TSCRA supports the passage of estate tax legislation that will eliminate or significantly reduce the burden of estate taxes on family ranching operations and provide certainty to dedicated ranching families who continue to work to preserve the land.
TSCRA supports lowering the tax rate, raising the exemption level per spouse and/or exempting agriculture production assets from the tax.
Federal Control of Water
The U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives have introduced legislation that would expand federal authority over private waters by removing the word “navigable” from the current Clean Water Act definition of waters of the U.S.
The new definition would expand the federal government’s control over all wet areas within a state, not just those that are navigable.
If this legislation becomes law, it would give the federal government unprecedented regulatory authority over water bodies such as stock tanks, drainage ditches, ponds, small and intermittent streams, creek beds, playa lakes, and mud holes. It could ultimately require ranchers to obtain federal permits and would allow the federal government to come on private property for inspections. The permits and enforcement would make it necessary for ranchers to hire engineers and attorneys to guide them through the permitting process and defend themselves against unnecessary federal regulation.
This legislation is a power grab by the federal government to further regulate private property in the U.S. by opening private land to federal jurisdiction.
TSCRA continues to work with industry leaders and government officials on both sides of the U.S. and Mexico border to ensure the safety of U.S. workers and U.S. cattle.
TSCRA strongly supports the continued inspection of cattle on the Mexican side of the border over the long-term. TSCRA continues to work with the state and federal governments to secure additional funding and resources for more treatment options, fencing, equipment, maintenance and employees. TSCRA also continues to work with the federal government on making their current fever tick programs more cost-effective and efficient.
We support protecting and reaffirming that groundwater is the vested, real property of private landowners for these reasons:
1. State law is clear that groundwater is the vested, real property of private landowners, but some continue to challenge the law. Private landowners must defend and reaffirm their ownership of this property and all constitutionally mandated private property rights in the regulatory, legal and legislative arenas to protect the resource for the benefit of all.
2. Private landowner ownership of groundwater encourages good stewardship and promotes accountability. The way private landowners, acting as land stewards, manage their property directly influences quantity and quality of groundwater available to all Texans. Vested ownership with local control also equitably balances conservation and use.
3. Private landowner ownership of groundwater provides more certainty and balance in water planning. With groundwater ownership reaffirmed, water planners can concentrate on how best to use groundwater to meet the state’s critical needs, instead of arguing about who owns it. This helps balance rural water-producing areas and urban water-consuming areas, without jeopardizing potential growth in any area of the state. Recognition of all landowners’ rights ensures that the value of available groundwater resources is shared by all property owners, not just a select few.
TSCRA recognizes the need for health care reform. Increased health care costs impact ranchers and TSCRA Insurance Services, Inc., client families and businesses. However, TSCRA strongly opposes federally controlled health care.
Federally controlled health care will have a devastating effect on Texas ranchers by eliminating the ability to choose quality health care for their families and employees, and impose new costly government mandates. TSCRA supports a free-enterprise, free-market system.
Federally controlled and mandated health care restricts, rather than enhances, a free-market system. TSCRA remains strongly opposed to the current health care law, and will continue to support the state’s efforts to defend Texans from the law, and support amendments to the federal law which will support and enhance a free-market system.