TFB calls for eminent domain reform

Nearly 1,000 voices spoke as one for additional protections in Farm Bureau policy to deal with threats to private property due to eminent domain proceedings.

Driven by concerns over the potential loss of land due to the Trans-Texas Corridor and other state and local initiatives, some 968 voting delegates at the 73rd annual Texas Farm Bureau meeting unanimously adopted state policy and recommended national policy that strengthens landowners’ options when confronted with eminent domain proceedings. State policies adopted during the annual meeting serve as a roadmap to guide the state’s largest farm organization as it addresses issues and challenges in 2007.

Regarding eminent domain, delegates supported legislation requiring those exercising eminent domain to make a good faith offer. They suggested the condemning authority should pay attorney fees, appraisal fees and related costs whenever the offer is challenged and the amount awarded exceeds the initial offer. Delegates said adequate time should be given to those affected by eminent domain to relocate.

Delegates also recommended a governmental review to determine the number and kind of entities that have the right to exercise eminent domain.

“We encourage the legislature to consider limiting the number of entities with these powers,” delegates said.

In other action, delegates reelected Kenneth Dierschke of San Angelo to his fifth one-year term as president of the state’s largest farm organization.

“Farm Bureau is our life,” Dierschke said of the election contested by former TFB Vice President Lloyd Arthur of Ralls. “I will continue to represent you in Washington, Austin, and anywhere in the world we go.”

Concerning other policy, delegates sought to protect the property tax cuts afforded by the legislature during the recent school finance debate. They favored lowering the current appraisal cap to 6 percent, and indicated that all increases above the cap be approved by countywide election. They supported elimination of the current unelected position of county chief appraisal officer and supported shifting those duties to the county tax assessor/collector, which is an elected position. Delegates favored reappraising property every three years instead of annually, and suggested the appraisal district post the average increase in a county’s property values — to show a real increase in taxes — in the local paper.

With the current drought focusing both urban and rural attention to the state’s water situation, delegates sought to clarify agriculture’s position in the state water debate by urging classification of water for agricultural purposes as an essential use of water. Opposing legislation that would give municipalities water that is required to sustain crops and livestock, delegates urged the development of brackish and sea water desalination projects to meet growing urban demands. They also supported legislation that encourages and supports voluntary water and land stewardship by “providing assistance and incentives to landowners for activities which benefit both urban and rural Texas.’

Following the convention, the Texas Farm Bureau board of directors met to elect officers. Chosen as vice president was Bobby Nedbalek, a cotton and grain farmer from Sinton. Don Smith, a dairyman from Sulphur Springs, is TFB’s new secretary-treasurer.

State directors were elected in even numbered districts and included the following:

· Dewey Hukill, a cotton, corn and wheat farmer from Olton, was elected as District 2 state director and replaced Lloyd Arthur of Ralls, who retired after serving his maximum third two-year term.

· Charles Ray Huddleston, a wheat, corn and sorghum producer from Celina, was elected as District 4 state director and replaced Joe Kapavic of Lancaster, who retired after serving his maximum third two-year term.

· Gary McGehee, a sheep and cow/calf producer from Mertzon, was reelected as District 6 director to his third two-year term.

· Richard Cortese, a grain and livestock producer from Little River, was elected as District 8 state director and replaced Dan Dierschke of Austin, who retired after serving his maximum third two-year term. · Raymond Meyer, a cow/calf producer from Pleasanton, was elected as District 10 state director and replaced Thomas Boehme of Castroville, who retired after serving his maximum third two-year term.

· Arthur Bluntzer of Goliad was reelected as District 12 state director to his third two-year term.

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