| Home | General Information | Staff | Bill Analysis | SRC Publications | TxAccess |
House Interim Committee on Agriculture and Livestock

IMPORTED FIRE ANT RESEARCH AND MANAGEMENT PLAN
Charge

Conduct active oversight of the development of a statewide fire ant research and management plan by the Fire Ant Research and Management Account Advisory Council (FARMAAC).
Recommendations

  • The Texas Imported Fire Ant Research and Management Plan should be utilized by the State of Texas as the program to manage and control fire ants in this state.

  • FARMAAC should intensify efforts to provide the public with fire ant management and control information.

    CATTLE AND DEER TUBERCULOSIS MANAGEMENT PLAN
    Charge

    Conduct active oversight of the implementation of a statewide bovine and cervidae tuberculosis plan.
    Background

    Tuberculosis in cattle has been on the rise for the past decade in Texas and elsewhere in the United States. Bovine TB has also been found in captive deer herds, including two herds in Texas. Bovine TB is caused by Mycobacterium bovis (M. bovis) and can infect all warmblooded animals, including humans. The rise in bovine TB caught most of the cattle, deer, and related animal health industry unaware. There has been little research on TB in the last 60 years. The mainstay diagnostic shin test is 100 years old and is inadequate in many ways and a vaccine for TB is not available.
    Recommendations

  • The Texas Cattle and Deer Tuberculosis Management Plan should continue to be followed as the program to address tuberculosis in cattle and deer.

    JONES STATE FOREST CONSERVATION AND EDUCATION CENTER
    Charge

    Study the potential for new educational and recreational opportunities in connection with properties under ownership or management by the Texas Forest Service.
    Recommendations

    4 Establish a forest conservation and education center at the W. Goodrich Jones State Forest.

    1996 FEDERAL FARM LEGISLATION
    Charge

    Review federal farm legislation and assess its impact on Texas agriculture.
    Background

    The 1996 federal farm legislation, the Federal Agricultural Improvement and Reform (FAIR) Act, is the largest and most significant change in farm bill legislation since the farm programs were implemented in the 1930s. The impact of the "FAIR" Act will impact financial institutions, suppliers, local businesses, processors, and individual consumers.

    The new legislation calls for direct subsidies on agriculture to be scaled down over the next seven years. This will force agricultural producers to adopt new technology and utilize risk management techniques such as commodities market hedging.

    Farmers will receive fixed, but declining, government payments based on past production for the next seven years no matter the price of commodities or whether they have dismal or bumper crops. USDA officials are advising farmers to save some of this money for unsure times ahead. It is widely predicted that moderate-sized farms are at the highest risk of failing and that the greatest pressure will be on wheat, rice, cotton, peanut and dairy farms.

    While the impact on consumers is uncertain, some economists predict that the government's consumer price index for food will increase at least five percent next year.
    Recommendations

  • Provide support for the development of the producer risk management decision system including deployment, with needed educational programs, of this system through the county offices of the Texas Agricultural Extension Service, thus ensuring its availability to Texas farmers and ranchers.

  • Evaluate needed improvements in crop insurance including the potential for expanded systems for ensuring producer revenue encompassing both price and yield risk.

    TEXAS WINE INDUSTRY
    Charge

    Review efforts and opportunities to develop value-added industries for Texas agricultural products, including factors which may prevent increased production and marketing of Texas products.
    Background

    Texas wine production began in 1662 when Spanish missionaries established the state's first vineyards at the Ysleta Mission near El Paso. Since then, Texas has become the fifth largest wine producing state after California, New York, Washington and Oregon. Texas produced one million gallons of wine with 26 wineries in 1995. Currently, Texas has 155 commercial vineyards and about 3,100 are planted in grapes. Eighty percent of the state's grapes are produced in the High Plains and West Texas; 10% in North Central Texas; and 10% in the Hill Country. The wine industry employed 2,189 people in 1995. Most of Texas' wineries are small and do not use distributors to sell their wine. The four largest wineries produce 80% of the wine in Texas and sell most of their wine through wholesale distributors.

    On May 31, 1996, the Agriculture and Livestock Interim Committee on Value-Added Agricultural Industries met to hear testimony regarding opportunities to develop the Texas wine industry. The testimony was presented at the hearing by representatives of the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association. At a later date, written information was presented to the committee by members of the Associated Wineries of Texas. The Associated Wineries of Texas consists of the four largest Texas wineries.
    Recommendations

  • Seek viable means to expand the Texas wine industry.

  • Simplify permits, reports, bonds, and regulations required of wineries by the State of Texas.

  • Cure inequities in the areas of ad valorem and sales taxation treatment of wineries.

  • Examine effective and fair methods of funding generic Texas wine promotion programs and viticulture research.

    TEXAS AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION SERVICE
    Charge and Background

    A Joint Interim Committee (committee) composed of members of the House Appropriations Committee and the Agriculture and Livestock Committee was appointed to determine if any changes should be made to the Texas Agricultural Extension Service (Extension) agency's focus, functions, organizational structure or staffing plans. The committee was initiated following the Extension's implementation of a uniform county equity funding plan, and a request of counties to contribute $16,000 a year in salary support in order to retain the base staffing of one agriculture/natural resources agent and one family/consumer sciences agent.

    Public hearings were held on May 15 and August 21, 1996 in Austin, Texas. Some committee members expressed dissatisfaction with the Extension in that the legislature was not informed during the previous budget appropriation cycle of anticipated shortfalls. Also, there was dissatisfaction that the Extension did not give the legislature prior notification of its intention to implement any equity funding plan that would require many counties to contribute additional funding to the Extension program. Counties were not given opportunities in devising plans dealing with the shortfall. In comparison to other employees, county extension agents are inadequately paid. The county groupings by category funding formula used in the equity funding plan is inequitable. The committee, however, did not make any recommendations regarding the above complaints.
    Recommendation

  • Exercise full cooperation and conversation among the Texas Association of Counties, counties, and the Texas Agricultural Extension Service if additional funds are requested from counties or if the formula used to group counties by category is changed.