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Private property rights are not optional

Private property rights are not optional

By Billy Howe
TFB State Legislative Director

Sometimes it seems people believe the legislature’s power is unlimited; that the legislature has no constraints on determining our state’s public policy, or the regulatory authority they can grant to state and local agencies.

However, it’s simply not true when it comes to private property rights.

Private property ownership and rights don’t come from the legislature. The courts determine if a landowner has a property right. Once that right is recognized, it is protected by the Takings Clause of both the Texas and U.S. constitutions. Both the court and the constitution provide the checks and balance to the legislature’s power.

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U.S. House moves to block EPA water rule

U.S. House moves to block EPA water rule

By Gene Hall

All fans of property rights and reasonable environmental regulation can cheer at a recent vote in the U.S. House. This week, by a vote of 262-152, the House voted to gut a proposed EPA rule to change the Clean Water Act (CWA.)

The CWA has always given EPA the authority to regulate the navigable waters of the U.S. Once this ill-advised rule is implemented, navigable means mud puddles, ditches and places that aren’t wet most of the time—like a “low spot” in a farmer’s field. That means every foot of ground and drop of water in the U.S. That means aggressive fines of many thousands of dollars a day. It also means lengthy and costly permit fights with regulators who may not care if your crop is at risk.

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Time to ditch the rule before EPA ditches you

Time to ditch the rule before EPA ditches you

By Mike Barnett

It looks like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is trying to flood agriculture into submission with its revisions of the Clean Water Act.

This map, developed by the U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and updated for EPA, shows locations and flow patterns of waterways in Texas.

At first glance, it looks innocent enough. Where it gets problematic is how it could be used.

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Federal judge in Hawaii bars county from excessive regulation

Federal judge in Hawaii bars county from excessive regulation

By Gene Hall

It’s always refreshing to see a legal matter settled on the basis of law and fact rather than emotion, overheated rhetoric and political theory. This was the case in Hawaii a few days ago when a federal judge ruled against Kauai County’s aggressive and anti-farmer Ordinance 960.

It’s not that silly laws never win in court, but this one, sillier than most, was turned back, though on more narrow grounds than I believe were justified.  Kauai County Ordinance 960 was passed some months ago with very strict curbs on many agricultural practices and the agribusiness firms that operate there. Included were restrictions on pesticide use and biotechnology, or GMOs if you will. The trouble is, that’s the state’s job—one that Hawaii performs aggressively.

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‘Mega-farming’ contaminates Toledo water supply: not exactly

‘Mega-farming’ contaminates Toledo water supply: not exactly

By Jay Bragg

Recently, 500,000 residents of Toledo, Ohio were without drinking water due to dangerously high levels of cyanotoxin in Lake Erie, produced by excessive amounts of blue-green algae.  National news outlets were quick to point their fingers at agriculture, picking up on the talking points of local politicians, activist groups, and pseudo-scientists.

Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins was quoted by the Los Angeles Times: “Once we clear this problem up, that is not going to eliminate the algae problem in the western basin of Lake Erie; that is not going to eliminate the agricultural runoff; that is not going to eliminate mega-farming.”

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Farming is tough, but worthwhile

Farming is tough, but worthwhile

By Gene Hall

I read two well-written pieces this week, taking opposing points of view about the virtues of small farming. Both had elements of what I’ve been writing about for a long time.

First, a thought-provoking piece by Bren Smith. He says don’t let your kids be small, local farmers. It’s expensive to get in and stay in. The rewards are small. I agree with him.

Then later in the week, Jenna Woginrich wrote an equally compelling story of the rewards in small farming, beyond the dollars. She’s right, too!

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