Texas farmer rides tractor to Austin to talk about farming regulations

It was hard to miss farmer James Lockridge as he made the journey from Dallas to Austin—all to send a message about farming regulations.

"Texas has gotten bad. Texas is out of control," said Lockridge. "I was on a mission and I had to get here."

The trip clocked in at 12 ½ hours. "It was a bumpy ride, not gonna lie," said Lockridge.

He says folks were very helpful as he made the journey--which he documented on TikTok. "A lot of people backing up and taking a picture of the back of the tractor, a lot of people didn't know what was going on and why this tractor's going down the highway," said Lockridge.

Lockridge pulled up in his John Deere outside the Capitol Tuesday night. He spent the day Wednesday in the Texas Capitol, hoping to meet with the Governor and others.  

So, what is his message, exactly? Lockridge grows hay on land he leases in Farmers Branch, near Dallas. "The City of Farmers Branch decided to mow my crops to the ground and then tell me that you couldn't grow crops over eight inches," said Lockridge.

He got a notice from the city, due to "grass, weeds and vegetation" on the property. "It’s pretty ridiculous because I've never heard a cow, a horse, a goat, say ‘that's not a crop, that's a weed, I'm not going to eat it.’"

Lockridge argues the new rules infringe on state law - and has been trying to speak with Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton. He did get a meeting Wednesday with a representative for Paxton.

"He agreed with me that cities have an overreach in power, that they have too much power," said Lockridge. "It’s a step in the right direction with Ken Paxton's office for sure. Greg Abbott's office told me go get a lawyer and sue the city."

The Code Enforcement Manager in Farmers Branch, Leo Bonanno, argues the regulations do in fact comply with state law, saying in a statement: 

"A number of cities in our region have interacted with Mr. Lockridge who not only fails to maintain land in compliance with local laws but has a well-documented history of making false, inflammatory and threatening statements to various agencies and their staff.  No member of our City Council or City staff has ever suggested disallowing farms or any particular crop of choice, and recent regulations passed in Farmers Branch do more to help, not hinder, genuine farming activities in our community. To date, Farmers Branch has issued zero citations for failure to remove hay bales from farmland.  We believe our regulations on the topic of agricultural land maintenance, including those passed recently with input from our citizenry, serve to protect the health, safety and prosperity of our residents, businesses and visitors while ensuring that all property owners are treated fairly, respectfully, and consistently within the confines of state and local law."

Lockridge also spoke with state Rep. James White (R-Hillister), who wrote a letter to Paxton saying farmers are "under siege."

"I would just like to see stakeholders get around the table with concerned municipalities, to get around the table and come up with something that benefits everyone," said White.

As for Lockridge, he’s driving his tractor back north, but says he’ll be back. "It’s not over," said Lockridge. "If I have to drive that tractor to Washington DC that's what I'm going to do."

FOX 7 reached out to the offices of Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton for comment, but have not heard back.

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