By Jennifer Dorsett
Field Editor

Texas farmers and ranchers walked the halls of the state Capitol this week, advocating for legislation to strengthen private property rights.

More than 90 Texas Farm Bureau (TFB) leaders asked lawmakers and their staff to make key legislative priorities for farmers and ranchers—including eminent domain reform—a reality.

While TFB leaders were at the Capitol on Thursday, a committee substitute for SB 421, a bill to reform Texas’ eminent domain process, was reported out of the House Committee on Land & Resource Management.

TFB, however, remains neutral on the bill due to concerns with some provisions in the House version that would be detrimental to landowners, but the organization does support passage without House floor amendments so the concerns can be addressed in conference committee, TFB President Russell Boening said.

“We appreciate the House Committee on Land & Resource Management voting to advance the bill, leaving a chance for meaningful eminent domain reform this session,” he said. “We appreciate the leadership of Rep. Cecil Bell and Rep. Ben Leman in supporting TFB’s request to get the bill to the House floor. We are grateful for the commitment of Chairman Tom Craddick to advance the bill and allow the stakeholders to advocate for their members’ interests in conference committee. We also appreciate the work of Sen. Lois Kolkhorst and Rep. DeWayne Burns.”

A conference committee of the House and Senate is expected to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill.

The road to eminent domain reform has been long, but TFB leaders remain committed to working with lawmakers to see change this legislative session.

“TFB will work with members of the conference committee to produce a bill that delivers a fair eminent domain process for all property owners in Texas,” Boening said.

Farmers and ranchers echoed Boening’s commitment.

“That’s why we’re here—to make sure our lawmakers represent the interests of the people they serve and do what’s right for Texans,” Calhoun County Farm Bureau member Dan Nunley said.

Other issues TFB leaders advocated for throughout the session and on this visit included the legalization of industrial hemp, funding for large animal veterinary programs, the re-establishment of unexpended balances authority to the Texas Department of Agriculture and addressing a current law requiring landowners to pay the attorney fees of a groundwater conservation district in the event of a legal dispute.

Although the future of some bills supported by TFB remains uncertain, leaders left on an upbeat note.

“We’ve been here on and off all session,” Pat McDowell, TFB District 1 state director, said. “These representatives know where we stand on the eminent domain issue, and we really appreciate their support.”