HBA-JRA C.S.S.B. 705 76(R)BILL ANALYSIS Office of House Bill AnalysisC.S.S.B. 705 By: Ogden Agriculture & Livestock 5/11/1999 Committee Report (Substituted) BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE Currently, no statewide agricultural policy is in place in Texas to provide long-term solutions and immediate relief for recent agricultural losses due in part to natural disasters. C.S.S.B. 705 provides aid, support, and assistance to agriculture, including the promotion of agriculture and the establishment of the agricultural technology program. RULEMAKING AUTHORITY It is the opinion of the Office of House Bill Analysis that rulemaking authority is expressly delegated to the commissioner of agriculture in SECTION 3 (Section 46.002, Agriculture Code) and to the Department of Agriculture in SECTION 5 (Section 254.002, Agriculture Code) of this bill. SECTION BY SECTION ANALYSIS SECTION 1. Provides that this Act may be cited as the Farm and Ranch Recovery Act. Sets forth the legislative findings regarding the current state of agriculture in the State of Texas. Sets forth the purposes of this Act. SECTION 2. Amends Title 4, Agriculture Code, by adding Chapter 60, as follows: CHAPTER 60. COMMODITY CRISIS COUNCIL AND MANAGER Sec. 60.001. DEFINITIONS. Defines "agricultural crisis," "council," and "manager" in this chapter. Sec. 60.002. MANAGER; DUTIES. Authorizes the commissioner of agriculture (commissioner) to designate a person, who may be an employee of the Texas Department of Agriculture (department), to serve as agricultural crisis manager (manager). Sets forth the functions and duties of the manager. Sec. 60.003. COUNCIL COMPOSITION; DUTIES. Sets forth the composition of the Commodity Crisis Council (council). Requires the commissioner to appoint not more than five representatives of agricultural industries to serve on the council. Sets forth the duties of the council. Provides that the commissioner's appointees serve without compensation, but are entitled to reimbursement for actual expenses incurred in the performance of official council duties, subject to approval of the commissioner. Entitles the other council members to reimbursement for actual expenses from their representative agencies. Requires the commissioner to provide the council with the necessary staff to carry out its duties. SECTION 3. Amends Title 3, Agriculture Code, by adding Chapter 46, as follows: CHAPTER 46. AGRICULTURAL TECHNOLOGY PROGRAM Sec. 46.001. DEFINITIONS. Defines "agricultural crisis," "agri-tech program," "applied research," and "eligible institution" in this chapter. Sec. 46.002. ADMINISTRATION; GUIDELINES AND PROCEDURES. Requires the department to develop, maintain, and administer the agri-tech program. Requires the department, in awarding funds to support projects under this chapter, to give priority to certain research projects and consider the recommendations of the council for specific projects. Requires the department to award funds to support projects as needed to address agricultural crises in this state. Requires the department to develop and maintain guidelines and procedures to provide awards under this chapter for specific projects at eligible institutions on a competitive, peer-review basis. Requires the department to determine whether a higher education institution qualifies as an eligible institution. Requires a higher education institution to demonstrate certain capabilities to be designated as an eligible institution. Requires the commissioner to give special consideration to certain projects in the selection process. Authorizes the commissioner to adopt rules to accomplish the purposes of this chapter. Sec. 46.003. AGRICULTURAL TECHNOLOGY ACCOUNT. Establishes that the agricultural technology account (account) is a general revenue fund account. Provides that the account consists of legislative appropriations, gifts, grants, and other money required by law to be deposited in the account. Authorizes the department to solicit and accept gifts in kind and grants of money from any entity or person for the purposes of this chapter. Authorizes the funds in the account to be used only as provided by this chapter. Provides that the account is exempt from the application of Section 403.095, Government Code. Requires income from money in the account to be credited to the account. Sec. 46.004. USE OF FUNDS IN AGRICULTURAL TECHNOLOGY ACCOUNT. Requires the comptroller to issue warrants to each eligible institution in the amount certified by the department to the comptroller from funds appropriated for the agri-tech program. Authorizes funds awarded from the account to be expended to support the particular research project awarded, and prohibits the expenditure of account funds for the general support of research and instruction conducting or sponsoring the project or for the construction or remodeling of a facility. Requires account funds to be used to match grants provided by the federal government or private industry for specific collaborative research projects at eligible institutions, when practicable within the purposes of this chapter. Provides that supplies, materials, services, and equipment purchased with funds obtained under this section are not subject to General Services Commission authority. Sec. 46.005. PROGRESS REPORTS. Requires an institution receiving funds under this chapter to report on the progress of the funded research to the department by September 1 of each year. Sec. 46.006. MERIT REVIEW. Requires the commissioner to appoint a committee consisting of representatives of the agricultural industry and of private enterprise advanced technology research organizations to evaluate the agri-tech program's effectiveness. Requires the committee to report its findings to the department by September 1 of the second year of each biennium. SECTION 4. Amends Title 3, Agriculture Code, by adding Chapter 47, as follows: CHAPTER 47. AGRICULTURE RISK MANAGEMENT EDUCATION Sec. 47.001. LEGISLATIVE FINDINGS; PURPOSE. Sets forth the legislative findings regarding agricultural risk management. Provides that the purposes of this chapter include increasing risk management educational efforts, establishing a statewide educational program that includes a risk management support system and a comprehensive educational curriculum, and fostering economic competitiveness and success in this state. Sec. 47.002. CREATION OF PROGRAMS. Requires the Texas Agricultural Extension Service (TAES) to administer a statewide financial and risk management assistance support system (support system). Authorizes the support system to include computer and communications technology to provide agricultural producers and agribusiness with information needed for individual long-term strategic farm or ranch planning. Requires TAES to develop and implement a statewide comprehensive educational curriculum program to provide agricultural producers and agribusinesses with additional information about riskmanagement and potential tools and options to consider in managing risks. Authorizes the curriculum to include instructional materials, instructors, and other resources in certain areas of interest. Authorizes TAES to organize and deliver the programs with the assistance of interested agricultural groups. Sec. 47.003. ELIGIBILITY FOR EDUCATIONAL MATERIALS AND SERVICES. Requires TAES to require a person pay a subscription fee or other charge in exchange for educational services and materials as a condition for educational assistance under this chapter. SECTION 5. Amends Title 8, Agriculture Code, by adding Chapter 254, as follows: CHAPTER 254. EMERGENCY HAY PROGRAM Sec. 254.001. DEFINITIONS. Defines "manager" in this chapter. Sec. 254.002. EMERGENCY HAY PROGRAM. Requires the department to adopt rules and administer a program, to be implemented by executive order of the governor, to provide assistance for the transportation of hay for use by agricultural producers whose production abilities are hindered during periods of natural disaster or other emergencies due to a lack of forage. Requires the manager to oversee the program. Sec. 254.003. EMERGENCY HAY ACCOUNT. Establishes that the emergency hay account (account) is an account in the general revenue fund. Establishes that the account consists of legislative appropriations and other money required by law to be deposited in the account. Authorizes the department to solicit and accept gifts in kind and grants of money from governmental agencies, private corporations, or other people to be used for the purposes of this chapter. Authorizes money in the account to be used only for the purposes of this chapter. Establishes that the account is exempt from the application of Section 403.095 (Use of Dedicated Revenue), Government Code. Requires income from money in the account to be credited to the account. Sec. 254.004. DUTIES OF DEPARTMENT. Sets forth required duties of the department in order to provide assistance under this chapter. Requires the department to coordinate its efforts with other emergency relief programs administered by the governor's division of emergency management. Requires the department to use the resources of the TAES and agricultural commodity associations to the extent practicable when designing and implementing its plan. Sec. 254.005. POWERS OF COMMISSIONER. Authorizes the commissioner to authorize the use of available funds from the account to facilitate the transportation of hay to producers when donated resources have been exhausted. Authorizes the commissioner to negotiate contracts with commercial haulers and certify commercial haulers for use during a natural disaster or other emergency. Sec. 254.006. ELIGIBILITY FOR PROGRAM. Provides that the assistance provided under this chapter is available only for agricultural producers within a county that is declared a federal disaster area. Sec. 254.007. ASSISTANCE FOR DEPARTMENT. Requires TAES to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the department to assist the department in administering the program. Sets forth the types of assistance TAES is authorized to provide. Requires TAES to develop guidelines for county extension agents to implement this section. Authorizes county extension agents to establish an advisory committee of local producers or work with an existing committee. Sec. 254.008. TERMINATION OF PROGRAM ASSISTANCE. Requires the department to terminate program assistance in a county if the county's federal disaster area designation expires or funds in the emergency hay account are depleted. SECTION 6. Amends Subchapter F, Chapter 661, Government Code, by adding Section 661.152, as follows: Sec. 661.152. LEAVE FOR VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTERS IN CERTAIN DISASTERS. Provides that this section applies only to a state employee who is trained as a volunteer firefighter and volunteers for duty to prevent or fight fires in a federal disaster area designated as such as the result of drought conditions. Provides that such a person is eligible for a leave of absence from work as a state employee without loss of compensation or risk of termination for the hours during which the employee serves as a volunteer firefighter. Requires the state agency that employs a person who requests leave to verify the person's eligibility to take the leave. SECTION 7. Effective date: September 1, 1999. SECTION 8. Emergency clause. COMPARISON OF ORIGINAL TO SUBSTITUTE The substitute deletes SECTION 2 of the original, which would have amended Title 3, Agriculture Code, by adding Chapter 48, to establish an interim committee on statewide agricultural policy (interim committee) and set forth the composition of the committee. Proposed Chapter 48 would have required the interim committee to investigate and study issues involving regulatory reform, market expansion, risk management, and crop insurance reform and to create a comprehensive state agricultural policy and develop a report, including a cost-benefit analysis of regulatory reform affecting agriculture, analyzing such issues and including recommended rule or statutory changes. The proposed chapter would have set forth provisions relating to the administration, expenses, and expiration of the interim committee. The substitute modifies the original by redesignating SECTION 3 (proposed Chapter 60, Agriculture Code) of the original to SECTION 2 and by authorizing the commissioner of agriculture (commissioner) to designate a person, who may be an employee of the Texas Department of Agriculture (department), to serve as manager, rather than requiring the commissioner to designate an employee of the department to serve as manager. The substitute also makes nonsubstantive changes. The substitute modifies the original by redesignating SECTION 6 (proposed Chapter 254, Agriculture Code) of the original to SECTION 5 and modifies proposed Section 254.004 to require the department to create a database to identify, rather than of pre-identified, public and private haulers that are willing to donate transportation services. In proposed Section 254.008, the substitute requires the department to terminate program assistance in a county if the county's federal disaster area designation expires or funds in the emergency hay account are depleted, rather than requiring the commissioner to determine monthly the continuing need for assistance to each county under the program and to suspend assistance for any county under the program, if the commissioner determines the county no longer needs assistance or that available state resources have been expended. The substitute also makes conforming and nonsubstantive changes. The substitute redesignates SECTIONS 5 and 7-9 of the original to SECTIONS 4 and 6-8.