Solari Food Series: Progress for Local Food in the State Houses

“Man is the only animal that laughs and has a state legislature.” ~ Samuel Butler

By Pete Kennedy

2021 has been a year of substantial progress for local food systems in the state legislatures. Less reliable supply chains, price inflation, and deteriorating quality in the conventional food system have led to increased demand for locally produced food and more concerned about food security. The path to greater food security is decentralization of food production and distribution along with deregulation of locally produced food.

Bills legislators passed in 2021 centered mainly in four areas:

  1. cottage food — Unregulated or minimally regulated sales direct from producer to consumer of foods prepared in an individual’s home that don’t need time or temperature control for safety (e.g., baked goods, jellies, some fermented foods).
  2. food freedom — The unregulated sale of most or all foods direct from producer to consumer except meat (due to federal law) including foods that do need time and temperature control for safety (e.g., dairy, eggs, poultry)
  3. meat — Decentralizing meat production or increasing access to custom slaughtered meat which is less regulated than meat slaughtered and processed at a federal- or state-inspected facility. There are federal requirements that states must adopt for the slaughter and processing of amenable species (cattle, hogs, sheep and goats).
  4. raw (unpasteurized) dairy products — There is a federal ban on the shipment of raw dairy products (other than cheese age 60 days) in interstate commerce; states, however, are free to legalize the regulated or unregulated sale or distribution of any raw dairy product within intrastate commerce. In some states, the only legal distribution of raw milk is through a herdshare agreement; a herdshare is a contractual arrangement where someone with an ownership interest in a dairy animal can obtain raw milk and/or other raw dairy made from milk produced by that animal.

Demand for foods direct from small farms and local artisan producers is accelerating; the biggest obstacle to prosperity is the regulatory climate and one-size-fits-all laws that favor big business. From a standpoint of food security (self-sufficiency in the production of quality food), food safety, human health and local economies, locally produced food–whether regulated or unregulated–is superior to industrial food in all respects. The more state legislators take the regulatory shackles off locally produced and sold food, the better off we can all be. The 2021 legislative session has been a significant step in the right direction.

State local food legislation so far this year includes bills in the following states (in alphabetical order):

ALABAMA (cottage foods)
Senate Bill 160 (SB 160) expands the types of foods that can be sold to all non-TTCS, including “fermented or preserved vegetables or fruits that do not result in the production of alcohol and that have an acidity level allowed by the department [state health department],” and removes the cap on annual sales for cottage food producers. The only requirements are a labeling requirements and a requirement that producers take a food safety course approved by the State Health department.

ALASKA (raw dairy)
Current law allows the distribution of raw milk through herdshare agreements; House Bill 22 (HB 22) expands that to allow the distribution of all raw dairy products through herdshares. The new law goes into effect on September 29.

House Bill 1315 (HB 1315 establishes a state meat inspection program, making Arkansas the 29th state to have its own meat inspection program. In 2020 Oregon became the 28th state to start up a state program–marking the first time in almost 20 years this had happened.

ARKANSAS (cottage food)
Senate Bill 248 (SB 248 expands the cottage foods law to allow the mostly unregulated sale of all homemade non-TTCS foods. Producers selling acidified vegetable products are subject to limited requirements. Sales can be either direct from producer to consumer or by third parties such as retail and grocery stores; sales can also be in interstate commerce if the producer is in compliance with applicable federal law.

Senate bill 21-079 allows the intrastate sale of “animal shares”, which the bill defines as “an ownership interest of at least 1% in the meat of a live animal.” The person making the sale must give the buyer the following disclaimer: “The seller of this meat is not subject to licensure and the sale of animals or meat (including any value-added product) from this seller is not subject to state regulation or inspection by a public health agency. Animals or meat purchased from this seller are not intended for resale.” The bill also allows the unregulated sale of rabbit meat if the seller raised, slaughtered and butchered the animal.

FLORIDA (cottage food)
House Bill 663 (HB 663) raises the cap on annual sales of cottage food from $50,000 to $250,000 and expands ways producers can deliver to consumers to include mail order sales. Under HB 663, an entity other than an individual can operate a cottage food business as long as the entity “packs or produces cottage food products…at the residence of a natural person who has an ownership interest in the entity.” The new law bars any local government from prohibiting or regulating “the preparation, processing, storage or sale of cottage food products by a cottage food operation”, although the localities may regulate other aspects of the business.

MAINE (food freedom)
Legislative Drawer 95 (LD 95), a resolution proposing a state constitutional amendment to establish a Right to Food has passed out of the legislature and will be on the ballot this November. The measure before the voters reads: “Do you favor amending the Constitution of Maine to declare that all individuals have a natural, inherent and unalienable right to grow, raise, harvest, produce and consume the food of their own choosing for their own nourishment, sustenance, bodily health and well-being?” A majority vote is needed for the amendment to become law.

MONTANA (food freedom)
Senate Bill 199 (SB 199) allows the unregulated intrastate sale of homemade food (other than foods with meat as an ingredient) from producer to informed end consumers, including all raw dairy products if the producer keeps no more than “five lactating cows, 10 lactating goats or 10 lactating sheep” on the farm for the production of milk. There are limited testing requirements for raw milk producers. Producers can sell poultry under SB 199 if they slaughter and process no more than 1,000 birds during a calendar year and comply with federal record-keeping requirements.

MONTANA (meat)
House Bill 336 (HB 336) establishes the Interstate Cooperative Meatpacking Compact Act and allows the shipment of state-inspected meat to other states that are members of the compact. With limited exceptions, federal law prohibits the interstate shipment of meat slaughtered and processed at a state-inspected facility. HB 336 becomes effective only if either:
The United States Congress ratifies the Interstate Cooperative Meatpacking Compact Act or “a court of competent jurisdiction has entered a final judgment on the merits finding that the Interstate Cooperative Meatpacking Compact Act is not preempted by federal law and is no longer subject to appeal.” The ACT terminates if neither event occurs before July 1, 2025.

Legislative Bill 324 (LB 324) allows the acquisition of meat from livestock under an animal share arrangement. The bill partially defines “animal share” as “an ownership interest in an animal or herd of animals between an informed end consumer and farmer or rancher where the consumer is entitled to retain a share of meat from that animal or herd.” Like the Colorado bill, the Nebraska legislation attempts to address deficient meat processing infrastructure caused by the lack of inspected slaughterhouses in the state.

NEW MEXICO (cottage food)
House Bill 177 (HB 177) expands the state cottage food law by allowing the unpermitted, unregulated sale of non-TTCS foods direct from producer to consumer; the exception is that Albuquerque and Bernalillo County can establish a mandatory permit system. Sellers must first complete a food handler certification course approved by the state Department of Environment. The seller is required to disclose to the consumer that the homemade food item is produced at a private residence that is exempt from state licensing and inspection and may contain allergens.

OKLAHOMA (food freedom)
House bill 1032 (HB 1032) allows the unregulated sale of all non-TTCS foods and TTCS foods that have either pasteurized milk or eggs as an ingredient. Sales of non-TTCS foods can be either from a producer direct to the consumer or by a third party (e.g., retail or grocery store); however, sales of TTCS foods must be direct from producer to consumer. Producers selling ttcs foods must first complete food safety training approved by the State department of agriculture. Sales of homemade food can occur across state lines if the producer is in compliance with applicable federal law. The bill raises the cap on annual sales from $20,000 to $75,000.

TEXAS (meat)
House Bill 2213 HB 2213 allows hunters to donate meat from some species of wild game (referenced as exotic animals in the bill) to a non-profit food bank. The slaughter or preparation of the meat can take place at the owners premises, on the premises where the hunter killed the exotic animal, or at a processing establishment. Federal law prohibits the sale of meat from wild game.

TEXAS (raw milk)
Even though the new Texas raw milk law is not through a bill, it is a big victory for state raw milk producers and consumers. The Texas State Department of Health has issued regulations that allow the delivery of raw milk by licensed dairies (previously sales were legal only on the farm), increases the type of raw milk dairy products producers can sell, and officially recognizes herdshare agreements as legal (herdshares are not regulated) as long as the farmer and consumer have a written bill of sale for the purchased interest and the consumer receives an amount of milk proportionate to that interest.

UTAH (meat; private home kitchens)
House Bill 94 (HB 94) allows the permitted sale of most foods, including meat, by private home kitchens. There are regulatory requirements for private home kitchens in the bill, but they are much less than those for commercial kitchens operating in the state. Utah already has a food freedom law in place allowing for the unregulated sale of most foods other than meat and raw dairy.

VERMONT (raw milk)
House Bill 218 (HB 218) expands raw milk access in the state by allowing producers to contract with farm stands or community supported agriculture organizations to sell raw milk; previously, producers could only sell raw milk direct to consumers.

WYOMING (food freedom)
House Bill 118 (HB 118) expands on the best food freedom law in the country by allowing the sale of foods by producers under the Wyoming Food Freedom Act in interstate commerce as long as the producer is in compliance with applicable federal law. The bill also allows the sale of eggs–produced without regulation–through third-party vendors such as a retail shop or grocery store. State law had already allowed the sale of all non-TTCS foods through third-party vendors; the unregulated sale of TTCS foods other than meat is legal from producer direct to consumer.

Government and industry are increasingly using tools such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, digitization and expanded data collection; the upshot is further centralization of the conventional food supply without any improvement in food quality, safety and security. It has never been more important to deregulate local food and improve the regulatory climate for small farmers and local artisans; hopefully, the 2021 state legislative session is just the start.

Those interested in working on local food legislation in their state can Send an Email .

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Solari Food Series