Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Texas Cattlemen Applaud Filing of Eminent Domain Reform Legislation

AUSTIN, Texas — Robert McKnight Jr., president of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA), joined State Rep. DeWayne Burns, State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst and other prominent property rights advocates at a news conference Wednesday to announce the filing of HB 991 and SB 421

The legislation was touted at the conference as a means to vastly improve the eminent domain process for thousands of Texans who are faced each year with the prospect of losing their private property through forced condemnation. 

Eminent domain is a power granted to governments to seize private property for public use, usually thought of in relation to roads, schools or other such projects. In Texas, however, many private for-profit entities, such as pipeline and transmission line corporations, can use the same governmental power.

“I would like to thank Rep. Burns and Sen. Kolkhorst for their steadfast commitment to fixing an eminent domain system that is commonly abused and designed to favor private companies who subsidize their profits with the power of condemnation,” said McKnight at the news conference. “Texans deserve better. We deserve an eminent domain process that is open and transparent, that is fair and respectful of our partnership in energy infrastructure, and that holds private condemnors accountable if they don’t do it right.” 

McKnight and others at the conference stressed the importance of better transparency, accountability and fairness in the eminent domain process, noting that for private entities, especially oil and gas pipelines, those virtues are practically nonexistent today. 

During the news conference, the bills’ authors discussed some of the provisions that would accomplish those goals. Mandating a public meeting to ensure property owners understand the process and can have their question answered, stipulating minimum protections that must be present in the contact and holding condemnors accountable if they offer property owners less compensation than they are owed.

According to Rep. Burns, the bills have already received bipartisan support from legislators who represent both rural and urban Texas. Still, the legislation will face strong opposition from oil, gas and pipeline company lobbyists who like the advantages they currently enjoy.

“Texas’ rapidly growing population and thriving energy industry are at crossroads that will determine the future of our state,” said Rep. DeWayne Burns. “HB 991 will ensure Texas property owners are respected partners in building our critical infrastructure while preserving our strong tradition of property rights.”

Sen. Kolkhorst also noted the broad support and that it is indicative of how widespread the problems are, and how seriously private property rights are taken in Texas.

“Since the days of Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin, Texans have valued on our freedom to own private property,” said Sen. Lois Kolkhorst. “To continue that proud tradition, I filed SB 421 to see that the eminent domain process used by private entities is fair, transparent and that those entities are held accountable when they take private land.”
Now that it is filled, the legislation must be referred to a committee and scheduled for a hearing. 

McKnight urged all Texans to follow the progress by visiting and signing up for updates. He also called on property owners to contact their state legislators and ask for their support.

“This is an issue every legislator can support to protect their constituents,” he concluded. “Ask them to sign on to HB 991 or SB 421 as a co-author to show their support for your private property rights.”


TSCRA is a 141-year-old trade association and is the largest and oldest livestock organization based in Texas. TSCRA has more than 17,500 beef cattle operations, ranching families and businesses as members. These members represent approximately 55,000 individuals directly involved in ranching and beef production who manage 4 million head of cattle on 76 million acres of range and pasture land primarily in Texas and Oklahoma, and throughout the Southwest.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

USDA to Reopen FSA Offices for Limited Services During Government Shutdown

(Washington, D.C., January 16, 2019) – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced that many Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices will reopen temporarily in the coming days to perform certain limited services for farmers and ranchers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has recalled about 2,500 FSA employees to open offices on Thursday, January 17 and Friday, January 18, in addition to Tuesday, January 22, during normal business hours. The offices will be closed for the federal Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday on Monday, January 21. 
 In almost half of FSA locations, FSA staff will be available to assist agricultural producers with existing farm loans and to ensure the agency provides 1099 tax documents to borrowers by the Internal Revenue Service’s deadline.
 “Until Congress sends President Trump an appropriations bill in the form that he will sign, we are doing our best to minimize the impact of the partial federal funding lapse on America’s agricultural producers,” Perdue said.  “We are bringing back part of our FSA team to help producers with existing farm loans.  Meanwhile, we continue to examine our legal authorities to ensure we are providing services to our customers to the greatest extent possible during the shutdown.”
Staff members will be available at certain FSA offices to help producers with specific services, including:
  • Processing payments made on or before December 31, 2018.
  • Continuing expiring financing statements.
  • Opening mail to identify priority items.
Additionally, as an intermittent incidental duty, staff may release proceeds from the sale of loan security by signing checks jointly payable to FSA that are brought to the county office by producers.
Information on the locations of FSA offices to be open during this three-day window will be posted:

While staff are available in person during this three-day window, most available services can be handled over the phone. Producers can begin contacting staff on January 17 here.   
Additionally, farmers who have loan deadlines during the lapse in funding do not need to make payments until the government shutdown ends.
 Other FSA Programs and Services 
 Reopened FSA offices will only be able to provide the specifically identified services while open during this limited time. Services that will not be available include, but are not limited to:
  • New direct or facility loans.
  • New Farm loan guarantees.
  • New marketing assistance loans.
  • New applications for Market Facilitation Program (MFP).
  • Certification of 2018 production for MFP payments.
  • Dairy Margin Protection Program.
  • Disaster assistance programs, such as: 
    • Livestock Indemnity Program.
    • Emergency Conservation Program.
    • Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program.
    • Livestock Forage Disaster Program.
    • Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish.
While January 15, 2019 had been the original deadline for producers to apply for MFP, farmers have been unable to apply since December 28, 2018, when FSA offices closed because of the lapse in federal funding.  Secretary Perdue has extended the MFP application deadline for a period of time equal to the number of business days FSA offices end up being closed, once the government shutdown ends. These announced days of limited staff availability during the shutdown will not constitute days open in calculating the extension. Producers who already applied for MFP and certified their 2018 production by December 28, 2018 should have already received their payments. 

More information on MFP is available at