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From groundwater to taxes, ag sector watches closely to survive
PAT KOPECKI/Reprints at
Texas Farm Bureau State Legislative Director Billy Howe addresses the members of the Wilson County Farm Bureau during the Oct. 20 county convention in Floresville. See wilsoncountynews.com for video of his presentation regarding groundwater rights and aerial hunting of feral hogs.
Wilson County News November 30, 2011 3,280 views 1 comment
FLORESVILLE -- The agricultural sector has emerged victorious in the 82nd session of the Texas Legislature, with issues such as groundwater and the Trans-Texas Corridor. These were among the topics addressed by Texas Farm Bureau State Legislative Director Billy Howe during the Oct. 20 Wilson County Farm Bureau Convention.
Howe, a lobbyist from Austin who deals mainly with property rights and water issues, addressed these and other issues important to the South Texas ag sector.
The groundwater bill, SB 332, clarified landowners’ rights and ownership of groundwater, Howe said, adding that the landowner owns the groundwater below the surface as real property. Due to passage of this bill, groundwater is considered in the “surface section of land ownership” that includes gravel and sand.
The Edwards Aquifer Authority used the argument that landowners do not own the water. Ninety of the 98 groundwater districts in the state opposed the state’s stance on groundwater ownership, Howe said.
“You do have a right ... to drill a well on your land,” he said.
Without this legislation, landowners who proceed to court would have had their cases thrown out, Howe said.
The landowner has a vested right to drill for and produce groundwater, he said.
Howe also discussed the issuance of ag tax numbers. Beginning Jan. 1, those in the ag sector will need an ag tax number from the state comptroller’s office; otherwise purchases will be taxed.
Howe explained that with the state’s $20 billion budget shortfall, the new designation could bring $2 million into the state’s coffers. He reminded his audience that “the bill does not change the items for which the current exemption applies.” See “Ag exemptions” for a partial listing of items for which the numbers apply.
Redistricting is yet another area the ag sector should be concerned about, Howe told his audience. It is predicted that by 2040, population in the “Golden Triangle” -- from Bexar County to Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston -- is expected to grow by 90 percent. The need for grass-roots efforts, for which the rural sector is known to be strong, will be important in the future to protect agriculture when legislative bills are discussed on the state and federal levels, especially since most legislators will be from the urban areas, Howe said.
Other victories from the 82nd session of the Texas Legislature included:
•The passage of Senate Bill 18 regarding eminent domain, which went into effect Sept. 1. Key provisions include that a bona fide offer must be given in writing for the property in question, a time frame given, and a compensation clause included with relocation costs.
•The deletion of the Trans-Texas Corridor from the Texas Department of Trans-portation’s (TxDOT) books. TxDOT can build toll roads, however, Howe added.
•The provisions to allow landowners to sell hunts for the taking of feral hogs or coyotes from a helicopter, effective Sept. 1.
Wilson County Farm Bureau members also proposed resolutions to address in the future during the county convention. See related article at left for more.
Among other items, the ag exemption number is needed for:
•Fertilizers, fungicides, and insecticides used exclusively in the production of timber for sale, or on a commercial farm or ranch in the production of food or other ag products for sale
•Machinery and equipment, including parts
•Components of agricultural irrigation systems
•Seedlings used in the production of timber for sale
•Electricity used in ag or timber operations
•Farm, timber, and off-road motor vehicles.
Source: Texas Farm Bureau
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Dawn Dailey Floresville, TX November 30, 2011 2:05pm