On September 14, the House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee (LAP) held a hearing beginning at 10:30 a.m. in the Capitol Extension. During the period between legislative sessions, the various House and Senate Committees hold “interim” hearings on a variety of issues as designated by the Speaker of the House and the Lt. Governor, respectively. Often these hearings deal with issues that have arisen since the conclusion of the legislative session or issues that were “unfinished” during the previous legislative session. In this instance, the hearing was regarding HB 1957 and herbicide drift. Specifically:
Examine the impact of the dicamba herbicide on the implementation of HB 1957, relating to the labeling of wine as originating from an area of this state or with the name of a vineyard in this state.
While this was not an Interim Charge as designated by the Speaker, it was an issue that the Chair, Ms. Thompson, became aware of and took an interest in and decided to have a hearing. We were able to brief her staff on the issue in greater detail and also make a recommendation on possible witnesses for the hearing.
The witnesses on behalf of the grape growing industry were Kirk Williams and Andy Timmons. In addition, Jim Kamas testified representing himself as an expert on the effects of drift on grapevines.
TABC’s new chief Thomas Graham also appeared as a resource witness as did a TDA representative. The cotton industry provided a representative who spoke as well.
Our witnesses revealed a story that many of us are all too familiar with. A variety of pictures and corresponding explanations painted a picture of ongoing devastation within our vines located on the high plains with little relief in sight.
TDA reported that, with very few complaints, there was little they could do to address the problem, while the cotton industry testified that damage, if it actually existed, must be caused by other factors and that the product in question was undoubtedly safe.
There is no actual bill to examine in this type of hearing, no statutory language to review and haggle over, this was just a discussion. It is unlikely, should there be legislation to address this issue, it would ever arrive at this committee—it would likely be referred to the House Ag Committee.
Regardless, this discussion was helpful. It is the first time we have gotten this discussion on the record, including the response from the cotton industry and this will come in handy in the future.
We have begun a new update on the TWGGA website dedicated to the drift problem. You can see many of the pictures used at the hearing on the 14th and any updates dealing exclusively with the drift issue. If you have pictures or damage reports, please forward those to TWGGA so that they may be included.
—Kyle Frazier, TWGGA Legislative Advocate