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Texas Department of Agriculture increases 117 fees

By Taylor Tompkins
Jan. 3, 2016 at 12:03 a.m.
Updated Jan. 3, 2016 at 12:06 a.m.

Clint Caviel carries a bag of cattle feed to a client's truck at Dierlam Feed Store in Victoria.

Clint Caviel carries a bag of cattle feed to a client's truck at Dierlam Feed Store in Victoria.    Jaime R. Carrero for The Victoria Advocate

Producing food is getting a little more expensive in 2016.

Agriculture commissioner Sid Miller instated Jan. 1 increases on more than 100 fees for pesticide applicator certifications, organic certifications, seed certifications, grain warehouses and devices such as weights and measures, among others. Some of the increases are about $10, while others are up to six times more than what they were.

Miller said the increases are necessary to recover costs of regulatory programs, according to a letter announcing the fee increases from October.

Stakeholders say it's another cost on the growing list of requirements to produce in agricultural business.

"Nobody likes a fee increase," said Shannon Deforest, Lavaca County extension agent, who said he has heard some grumbling from farmers.

The impact of many of the fees will depend on the frequency of which they are incurred. For example, to get an agriculture private pesticide applicator license, farmers will be charged $100, $40 more than before the increases. However, the applicator license is good for five years and hiring a company to treat many acres would quickly surpass that cost.

Most local agriculture producers and businesses have to take market price for their products, leaving them to bear the brunt of the fees, said Keith Schumann, vice president of quantitative analysis with Agrilogic Consulting. The company is an agricultural economics consulting firm in College Station.

"Whatever costs they're incurring, they have to internalize that," Schumman said. "Any fee increase they're going to deal with. They can't necessarily pass on down stream, so they're going to have to take the hit on that."

Despite money coming out of the pockets of farmers, the fees are a part of the relationship with the Texas Department of Agriculture, said Matt Bochat, Victoria County extension agent.

"Obviously nobody likes to see fees going up, especially government type fees, but some of these fees haven't gone up in 12, 15 years," Bochat said. "Most farmers and ranchers and agribusinesses are already paying enough, but it's give and take. You got to have regulation if you want folks to do things right."

Regulation is more important in the public eye than ever because "agriculture continues to be in an age of accountability," Deforest said. The general public increasingly wants to know the producers are using proper techniques in farming, Deforest said.

These fees won't just affect farmers. Fees for fuel pump regulation, motor fuel testing and regulated scales, such as those in grocery stores, are also being increased.

The fee increases won't get passed down to consumers, Schumann said.

"They're paying these fees in Texas where neighboring states or any other state in the country you have different fee structures that you're incurring along the lines of your production agriculture," Schumann said. "I don't know where those are relative, but that change in the fee here in Texas is not going to necessarily change cotton prices or corn prices or anything like that nationally."

To see the full scope of the effect of this fee increase, analysts may have to look further than the new year.

"You're probably going to have a lot less guys wanting to do that (farm)," said Michael Donaldson, Refugio County extension agent. "It just starts to become strapping to those guys."



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