Texas Agriculture September 2, 2016 : Page 15

Grassroots advocacy efforts successfully challenge regulations By Julie Tomascik Associate Editor The cost of doing business in ag-riculture seems to face ever-growing increases. But Texas Farm Bureau (TFB) members recently took a stance against one of those rising costs. TFB State Director Mark Cham-blee and Smith County Farm Bureau board member Bob Cartwright suc-cessfully fought a rule proposed by the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) that would increase the Phytos-anitary Certification fees. In order to ship to pest-free areas, that certificate ensures phytosanitary inspections have been conducted and the plant products and their packag-ing have been found to be pest-free. And it cost growers $30 to inspect a shipment, which could include unlim-ited plants and plant products. The measure proposed a significant increase—$35 for the visit to inspect and an additional $35 per shipment. It was a proposal that would negatively impact their businesses. “This past year, our TDA inspec-tor visited our nursery 14 times and wrote 170 Phytosanitary Certificates for a cost of $420,” Cartwright wrote in comments he submitted to the agency. “Under the new proposed increase, our cost will be $490 for inspections and $5,460 for additional certifications for a total of $5,950.” “We would have to pass those ad-ditional costs on to our customers, and no one would be willing to pay that,” Chamblee said. “That would allow our competi-tion in other states to ship products to our customers without an exorbitant fee. It would be devastating to our livelihood.” Cartwright shared those concerns. “The increases would place a finan-cial hardship on smaller nurseries and mail-order businesses. It would be-come too costly to do business,” he said. After several comments were filed, TDA reduced the fee to $35 for the initial visit and $10 per plant product in the shipment if growers used the USDA’s Phytosanitary Certificate Is-suance Tracking System online. But that wasn’t enough. So Chamblee and Cartwright made phone calls to their elected officials. “Representative Matt Schaefer and newly-elected Sena-tor Bryan Hughes were instrumental. We contacted them and they wrote a let-ter to Commissioner Miller,” Chamblee said. The letter was also signed by 26 other legislators. “While TDA has the authority to promulgate reasonable fee increases, it was never the intent of the legisla-ture to allow TDA to apply fees to small businesses that will be so cost-prohibi-tive as to force these companies to stop selling their goods out of state,” the let-ter said. “If we really want the nation to ‘Go Texan,’ we must ensure that gov-ernment does not force businesses that are so vital to our communities to close up shop because of TDA fees.” In late July, the agency decided to postpone implementation of the pro-posed rule. But in a letter to Schae-fer, Miller said, “Based on communi-cations with the Legislative Budget Board, we believe that the phytosani-tary program is headed toward a full cost recovery funded budget, which will make implementation of higher fees necessary.” In the meantime, growers are work-ing with elected officials to prepare for the upcoming legislative session. “This was a true grassroots ad-vocacy effort. It was the growers go-ing straight to our representatives, showing them how this would nega-tively impact us,” Chamblee said. “It worked the way it should by a grass-roots effort.” No-Till Drill Planters Hayliners *Great Value -Low Cost Option Improve Pasture Production Lower Cost Hay Bale Trailers Hay Bale Trailers S EPTEMBER 2 , 2016 New HayVan Trailer Trailers Available in Various Sizes Deer Plots Made Easy! • Call for Special Prices! 920 East 6th Ave. Belton, TX 1-888-847-2596 1-800-446-7319 ag-meier.net 15

Grassroots Advocacy Efforts Successfully Challenge Regulations

Julie Tomascik

The cost of doing business in agriculture seems to face ever-growing increases. But Texas Farm Bureau (TFB) members recently took a stance against one of those rising costs.

TFB State Director Mark Chamblee and Smith County Farm Bureau board member Bob Cartwright successfully fought a rule proposed by the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) that would increase the Phytosanitary Certification fees.

In order to ship to pest-free areas, that certificate ensures phytosanitary inspections have been conducted and the plant products and their packaging have been found to be pest-free. And it cost growers $30 to inspect a shipment, which could include unlimited plants and plant products.

The measure proposed a significant increase—$35 for the visit to inspect and an additional $35 per shipment. It was a proposal that would negatively impact their businesses.

“This past year, our TDA inspector visited our nursery 14 times and wrote 170 Phytosanitary Certificates for a cost of $420,” Cartwright wrote in comments he submitted to the agency. “Under the new proposed increase, our cost will be $490 for inspections and $5,460 for additional certifications for a total of $5,950.”

“We would have to pass those additional costs on to our customers, and no one would be willing to pay that,” Chamblee said. “That would allow our competition in other states to ship products to our customers without an exorbitant fee. It would be devastating to our livelihood.”

Cartwright shared those concerns. “The increases would place a financial hardship on smaller nurseries and mail-order businesses. It would become too costly to do business,” he said.

After several comments were filed, TDA reduced the fee to $35 for the initial visit and $10 per plant product in the shipment if growers used the USDA’s Phytosanitary Certificate Issuance Tracking System online.

But that wasn’t enough. So Chamblee and Cartwright made phone calls to their elected officials.

“Representative Matt Schaefer and newly-elected Senator Bryan Hughes were instrumental. We contacted them and they wrote a letter to Commissioner Miller,” Chamblee said.

The letter was also signed by 26 other legislators.

“While TDA has the authority to promulgate reasonable fee increases, it was never the intent of the legislature to allow TDA to apply fees to small businesses that will be so cost-prohibitive as to force these companies to stop selling their goods out of state,” the letter said. “If we really want the nation to ‘Go Texan,’ we must ensure that government does not force businesses that are so vital to our communities to close up shop because of TDA fees.”

In late July, the agency decided to postpone implementation of the proposed rule. But in a letter to Schaefer, Miller said, “Based on communications with the Legislative Budget Board, we believe that the phytosanitary program is headed toward a full cost recovery funded budget, which will make implementation of higher fees necessary.”

In the meantime, growers are working with elected officials to prepare for the upcoming legislative session.

“This was a true grassroots advocacy effort. It was the growers going straight to our representatives, showing them how this would negatively impact us,” Chamblee said. “It worked the way it should by a grassroots effort.”

Read the full article at http://texasagriculture.texasfarmbureau.org/article/Grassroots+Advocacy+Efforts+Successfully+Challenge+Regulations/2574628/334294/article.html.

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