By Jason Allen

FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – Farmers Branch was poised Tuesday night, Oct. 19 to change a city rule that a farmer has pushed back against for months, saying it would force him to give up agriculture in the city.

The city council was set to consider allowing farming as an exception to a rule limiting grass height on properties to no more than eight inches.

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It would raise the allowable height to four feet, as long as the crop was consistent across the property, and on land appraised as agricultural use or open space.

The change comes after the city decided over the summer that grass cut for hay on several vacant properties, was not a crop.

James Lockridge, who mows properties for landowners and uses the hay to feed cattle, pushed back against the rule that resulted in citations and city contractors mowing the properties and billing him for the work.

Lockridge’s protest in August got the attention of State Representative James White.

“The city, I don’t believe, gets to dictate what’s a crop, and what’s not a crop,” he said in an interview about the dispute last month.

White, who is running for Texas Agriculture Commissioner, was referencing a state statute that says agriculture cannot be considered a nuisance.

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The city’s position was high grass on the properties was not a crop, and could hide trash, problem animals and draw complaints from nearby developments.

“He is doing the most fundamental activity for the freedom of the state, and that is agriculture,” White said.

Farmers Branch city staff was not able to comment on the reason for the change Tuesday, with direction from city management to wait after city council members had an opportunity to weigh in on the issue.

Lockridge said Tuesday he still didn’t think the new ordinance went far enough, with the height limit preventing farmers from growing corn and tall grains.

It would also stop him from using the full property due to a the requirement that 20-feet along the property line still be mowed close to the ground.

It also requires hay bales to be moved within seven days. Lockridge said he prefers to keep them in fields until fall when they’re needed for feed.

“They’re still trying to put a limit on the farmers and cripple them to get them out of the city limits,” he said.

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If city council passes the new wording, the ordinance is set to take effect immediately.