Delegates register opposition to TxDOT road conversions
SAN ANTONIO, Texas–Texas Farm Bureau (TFB) voting delegates were unanimous in their opposition to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) plans to convert existing roads from asphalt pavement to gravel.
Roads, private property rights and water topped the list of concerns during the policy session at the 80th annual meeting, which concluded this afternoon in San Antonio.
“The plan announced earlier this year by TxDOT enraged rural residents in South and West Texas where conversions are taking place,” said TFB President Kenneth Dierschke. “Our members are justifiably concerned the TxDOT road conversions will spread across the Lone Star State.”
Noting road degradation due to increased traffic caused by burgeoning oil and gas discoveries across Texas, delegates said funds from the Economic Stabilization Fund (Rainy Day Fund)—comprised of oil and gas severance taxes—should be added to the highway fund for road maintenance. They also said the decision to downgrade any paved roads should not be made prior to a public hearing and should involve community officials.
Delegates voted to strengthen private property protections when landowners deal with pipelines and eminent domain. They said the Texas Railroad Commission (RRC) should establish and strictly follow a meaningful review process of approving Common Carrier Permit applications, adding that the RRC should verify information submitted by applicants to assure those entities meet the legal standards of common carrier status.
They suggested landowners whose property may be affected by a pipeline project receive notice by certified mail from any company with the power of eminent domain. In addition, delegates said landowners should have an opportunity to challenge the common carrier status of any company with the power of eminent domain in a local trial court of jurisdiction and local intermediate appellate court.
Despite the passage of Proposition 6 in November, ongoing drought concerns forced a focus on water as delegates addressed Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) actions to limit agricultural water use this past summer.
When TCEQ suspends agricultural use of water in times of drought to meet priority calls by a municipality or industry, delegates said that entity should have a conservation plan in operation to reduce water use to essential needs.
They also supported actions to limit non-essential domestic use in times of drought.
“Essential domestic use of water should not include activities such as irrigation of lawns and water for aesthetics or recreational purposes,” delegates said.
In other action, delegates elected Kenneth Dierschke, a cotton and grain farmer from San Angelo, to his 12th term as president of the state’s largest farm organization, which reached a 500,000-member milestone this year. David Stubblefield of Colorado City was reelected as vice president and Russell Boening was reelected as secretary-treasurer.
Two new directors were also elected.
Mark Chamblee of Tyler in Smith County is the new District 5 state director. A former president and board member of the Smith County Farm Bureau, Chamblee is in the greenhouse and nursery business with a focus on container roses. He and his wife Sharon have a son and daughter.
The new District 9 state director is Larry Joiner of Huntington. President of the Angelina County Farm Bureau and chairman of the TFB Equine Committee, Joiner grows hay, timber, registered Brahman cattle, crossbred commercial cattle and Registered Quarter horses. He and his wife Karon have three daughters and one son.