Tomato gardening program to be held April 7

Scott Anderson
Special to the Bulletin
Scott Anderson

Wednesday, April 7 is the date of a tomato gardening program. It will be held at the Brown County Extension Office located at 605 Fisk Avenue in Brownwood. The program will be held from 12 noon – 1:00pm. It is open to anyone interested.

This April 7 program is the first in a series of Lunch-N-Learn Horticulture programs being conducted this spring/summer by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. The tomato gardening program will be virtually assisted. Dr. Joe Masabni Extension Vegetable Specialist from Dallas will present the program virtually. It will only be available at the Brown County Extension Office. The program will cover growing tomatoes in home gardens. Dr. Masabni will be available for questions at the end of his presentation.

The specific dates for the Lunch-N-Learn series are as follows:

April 7 – Home Tomato Gardening, virtually assisted

May 5 – Tour of Hardwick’s Nursery in Early

June 2 – Making Fresh Homemade Salsa (hot sauce), Brown County Extension Office

July 7 – Oak Wilt Management in Home Yard Trees, Brown County Extension Office

All programs in the series are scheduled from noon to 1:00pm.

The programs in this horticulture series are open to anyone interested in vegetable gardening and landscapes.

Individual registration for the series is $25 or $10 per program. No preregistration is needed.

For more information contact the AgriLife Extension Office at 325-646-0386.

Good news for Texas farmers and ranchers

According to Tiffany Dowel Lashmet, Extension Ag Law Specialist, there is now a bill in the Texas Legislature that will modify farm animal liability. That is good news for farmers and ranchers.

A bill that would seek to essentially undo a 2020 Texas Supreme Court decision limiting the scope of the Texas Farm Animal Liability Act (FALA) has been unanimously passed out of the House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee.  For farmers and ranchers, this is an important issue as it relates to their legal protection from liability for injuries caused by horses or livestock.

Statutory Background

The Texas Equine Act was passed in 1995.  The scope of the statute was amended in 2011 to expand the scope of the Act from just equine animals to all farm animals, defined as “horses, ponies, mules, donkeys or hinnys, bovines, sheep, goats, pigs, hogs, ratites (including ostriches, rheas, and emus), and chickens or other foul.”

The intent of this statute is to protect farm animal owners from liability if a participant is injured in a farm animal activity and the injury is the result of an inherent risk of the farm animal activity.

There have been several appellate court decisions decided pursuant to the FALA.  One ongoing question was whether the Act was available as a defense if the injured party was an employee or an independent contractor. 

In the 2021 Legislature, Representative Andrew Murr introduced House Bill 365.  This bill is an attempt to essentially modify the statute to undo the decision in the Waak case. 

Expanded activity descriptions

Specifically, this bill would add language to ensure its application to working farms and ranches.  Additionally, the definitions of “farm animal activity” and “engages in a farm animal activity” would be expanded to include language such as “owning, raising, boarding, or pasturing a farm animal,” and “feeding, vaccinating, exercising, weaning, transporting, producing, herding, corralling, branding, dehorning, or assisting in or providing health management activities for” farm animals.  Also included would be management of a show involving farm animals and “engagement in routine or customary activities on a farm to handle and manage farm animals.”  

Expanded definition of “farm animal professional”

The bill would also change who would be required to hang up a Farm Animal Liability Act sign in order to seek applicability of the statutory protections.  Thus, if the bill passes, it would be required that all farmers and ranchers hang the sign in order to be protected if someone being compensated is injured while undertaking one of these activities.

Inclusion of Employees and Independent Contractors

As noted above, there had been disagreements in lower court opinions regarding whether the Farm Animal Liability Act applied to independent contractors and/or employees who were injured.  This bill would expressly answer that question in the affirmative, as the language includes both independent contractors and employees in the definition of a “participant.”

Where Does the Bill Stand Now?

The bill was referred to the House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee on February 25.  A public hearing was held, and testimony heard.  On March 17, the bill was unanimously passed out of the Committee.  The next step will be to proceed to the House floor, and then, if passed, to the Senate.