The Texas State Legislature voted to send a constitutional amendment establishing a right to farm, ranch, timber production, horticulture, and wildlife management on a person’s owned or leased property to the Nov. 2023 ballot. The amendment states that the right does not preclude the state legislature from passing laws to regulate farming, ranching, timber production, horticulture, or wildlife management practices to protect public health and safety, prevent danger to animals or crop production, or preserve the natural resources of the state.
The amendment was proposed as House Joint Resolution 126 on Feb. 24, 2023. The amendment received no opposition votes in the legislature. The state House passed HJR 126 by a vote of 144-0 with six not voting on April 10. The state Senate passed HJR 126 by a vote of 31-0 on May 4.
The amendment was authored by Reps. DeWayne Burns (R-58), Dustin Burrows (R-83), Mary Gonzalez (D-75), Trent Ashby (R-9), and Diego Bernal (D-123). In the authors’ statement of intent included with the amendment, they wrote, “Farmers and ranchers who engage in production agriculture within municipal boundaries are being subjected to broad overregulation by municipal ordinances that prohibit and greatly restrict normal practices of agricultural operations, such as the raising and keeping of livestock, the production of hay, and the cultivation of certain row crops. H.J.R. 126 seeks to address this issue and empower landowners in the state by constitutionally protecting their right to engage in certain generally accepted agricultural practices on their own property.”
The Texas Farm Bureau, Texas Poultry Federation, Texas Landowners Council, Texas Forestry Association, and Texas Wildlife Association were among those that registered in support of the amendment.
Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance and the Humane Society registered in opposition to the amendment.
Texas passed a right-to-farm statute in 1981. The law limits the circumstances under which an agricultural operation may be considered a nuisance. Agricultural operations include soil cultivation, farming, animal feed, planting seeds, floriculture, viticulture, horticulture, silviculture, wildlife management, raising livestock, and grain storage facilities.
Two other states—Missouri and North Dakota—have adopted right-to-farm constitutional amendments. Voters in Missouri adopted the legislatively referred constitutional amendment in Aug. 2014 by a vote of 50.12% to 49.88%. North Dakotans adopted the citizen-initiated amendment in 2012 by a vote of 66.89% to 33.11%. In 2016, Oklahomans defeated a similar amendment placed on the ballot by the legislature by a vote of 60.29% to 39.71%.
In 2021, Maine approved a first-of-its-kind right to produce, harvest, and consume food amendment. It was approved with 60.84% of the vote.
In Nov., Texas voters will also be deciding on an amendment to authorize the state legislature to permit conservation and reclamation districts in El Paso County to issue bonds to fund parks and recreational facilities.
As of May 5, 36 constitutional amendments have received at least one vote by a chamber of the state legislature. Texas is one of 16 states that requires a two-thirds vote in each legislative chamber during one legislative session to refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot. During the 2021 legislative session, 18 constitutional amendments received at least one vote by a chamber with eight measures certified for the ballot. In 2019, 19 constitutional amendments received at least one vote with 10 measures ultimately making the ballot.
The state legislature is set to adjourn on May 29.