Latin America Trade Team Visits Texas - A U.S. Grains Council (USGC) trade team of Colombian and Peruvian poultry and swine producers and grain importers traveled to Texas Oct. 19-21 as part of a learning journey on purchasing U.S. sorghum and incorporating it into animal rations.
The trade team spent two-and-a-half days in Texas, and during that time, met with industry representatives from producers to end-users. Some of the meetings on their agenda included:
- Meetings with grain merchants representing Gavilon and Attebury
- Tour of Attebury’s transloading containerization facility, Saginaw
- Meeting and elevator tour, Gary Holcomb, Ag Producers Coop, Sunray
- Swine feeding seminar, Jason Frantz, Texas Farms
- Farm tour, Blake Tregellas, Tregellas Family Farms, Perryton
- Wrap-up dinner, James Born, Little B Farms, Booker
Peru and Colombia are promising markets for U.S. sorghum. In Peru, there is an opportunity for U.S. sorghum due to a duty preference and no quota on sorghum imports. Likewise, Colombia has a duty-free quota for U.S. sorghum, however the volume is small and will limit overall demand until the tariff rate quota is phased out.
Fifth and Final Round of Interim Charges Announced - Last week, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick announced the fifth and final round of interim charges for the Texas Senate to study while the legislature is not in session. Each of the Senate’s 14 primary committees received a bevy of charges. Some charges – such as requesting the Finance committee to examine property tax relief – capitalized on momentum gained from the recent legislative session. Others – like High Education’s charge to investigate tuition deregulation – indicate a renewed effort at failed legislative initiatives. Many of the Lt. Governor’s charges will shape the approach the 85th Legislature takes to agriculture policy in 2017. For instance, the following subjects will be examined:
- Eminent domain and ensuring fair compensation
- Implementation of pending EPA regulations and Waters of the U.S. developments
- Surface water and groundwater rights and regulations
- TDA Market Development Services expansion
- Monitoring TWDB’s approach to brackish groundwater zones
The list of the Senate’s interim charges can be found in its entirety on the Senate’s website http://www.senate.state.tx.us/. We will await the House’s interim charges and let you know how you can get involved in the interim study process to best ensure your legislature understands the true needs of its constituents.
A Closer Look at Constitutional Amendments - On November 3rd, Texans will take to the voting booths to decide whether to adopt seven constitutional amendments passed by the 84th Texas Legislature. These proposed amendments already had to pass a 2/3 supermajority vote in both the Senate and the House to qualify for the upcoming ballot. If November 3rd is an inconvenient date for you, early voting began on October 19th and will last until October 30th. You can find the full text of each proposed amendment here, but below is an overview of what to expect if they pass:
- Proposition 1 (SJR 1) – A cornerstone of the 84th Legislature’s much-debated tax relief initiative, SJR 1 seeks to increase the homestead exemption from $15,000 to $25,000. By adopting this amendment, Texas homeowners would be able to exempt an additional $10,000 from the ad valorem property taxes imposed by their school district. The average homeowner can expect to save about $120-130 a year. This would mark the first increase of the homestead exemption since 1997.
- Proposition 2 (HJR 75) – HJR 75 seeks to correct an unintentional loophole that resulted from a previous constitutional amendment aimed at alleviating the property tax burden on a surviving spouse of a disabled veteran. The previous amendment had not covered surviving spouses of veterans who passed away before 2011, this amendment corrects that error.
- Proposition 3 (SJR 52) – SJR 52 seeks to repeal the requirement that various statewide offices – Comptroller, Attorney General, etc. – physically reside in Austin.
- Proposition 4 (HJR 73) – HJR 73 seeks to permit charities of professional sports teams to conduct charitable raffles as governed by general law.
- Proposition 5 (SJR 17) – SJR 17 seeks to increase the population maximum for county maintenance of private roads from 5,000 to 7,500. This would allow remote, rural counties to expend public funds on private road repair and construction. This amendment would expand such a right to approximately 20 additional counties.
- Proposition 6 (SJR 22) – SJR 22 seeks to recognize the constitutional right of Texans to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife.
- Proposition 7 (SJR 5) – SJR 5 seeks to adjust tax revenue streams towards spending on state transportation. If the sales & use tax and motor vehicle sales & rental tax each exceed certain thresholds, then those surpluses will be redirected from the General Revenue Fund to the State Highway Fund. Legislators have declared this the “largest single increase in transportation funding in Texas history.”