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 concerns about food security. The path to greater food security is decentralization of food production and distribution along with deregulation of locally produced food.
2021 a year of progress for local food systems
As demand for foods direct from small farms and local artisan producers accelerates, the biggest obstacles to prosperity for small producers are the regulatory climate and one-size-fits-all laws that favor big business. Fortunately, 2021 has been a year of substantial progress for local food systems in the state legislatures. Bills passed by legislators in 2021 centered mainly in four areas:
1. COTTAGE FOODS
This type of bill pertains to 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—called “non-TCS foods.” Examples include baked goods, jellies and some fermented foods.
2. FOOD FREEDOM
Food freedom bills address 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, such as dairy, eggs and poultry (under federal law, poultry is classified separately from meat).
Bills in this category focus on 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 aged sixty 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.
Local food legislation wins
From the 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 will all be. The 2021 legislative session has seen a significant step in the right direction. The following paragraphs summarize local food legislation so far this year in the four areas (listed in alphabetical order).
ALABAMA (Cottage Foods)
Senate Bill 160 (SB 160) expands the types of foods that can be sold to encompass all non-TCS foods, including “fermented or preserved vegetables or fruit 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 requirement 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. It goes into effect on September 29.
House Bill 1315 (HB 1315) establishes a state meat inspection program, making Arkansas the twenty-ninth state to have its own meat inspection program. In 2020, Oregon became the twenty-eighth state to start up a state program—marking the first time in almost twenty years this had happened.
ARKANSAS (Cottage Foods)
Senate Bill 248 (SB 248) expands the cottage foods law to allow the mostly unregulated sale of all homemade non-TCS 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 (SB 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 Foods)
House Bill 663 (HB 663) raises the cap on annual sales of cottage foods from fifty thousand to two hundred fifty thousand dollars 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 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 one thousand birds during a calendar year and comply with federal record-keeping requirements.
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 state’s lack of inspected slaughterhouses.
NEW MEXICO (Cottage Foods)
House Bill 177 (HB 177) expands the state cottage foods law by allowing the unpermitted, unregulated sale of non-TCS 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-TCS foods and TCS foods that have either pasteurized milk or eggs as an ingredient. Sales of non-TCS foods can be either from a producer direct to the consumer or by a third party (such as retail or grocery store); however, sales of TCS foods must be direct from producer to consumer. Producers selling TCS foods must first complete food safety training approved by the state’s Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry. 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 twenty thousand to seventy-five thousand dollars.
House Bill 2213 (HB 2213) allows hunters to donate meat from some species of wild game to a non-profit food bank. The slaughter or preparation of the meat can take place at the owner’s 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)
A new Texas raw milk law is not the result of a bill, but 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 (CSA) organizations to sell raw milk; previously, producers could sell raw milk only 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-TCS foods through third-party vendors; the unregulated sale of TCS foods other than meat is legal from the producer direct to the consumer.
SUPPORT DECENTRALIZATION AND DEREGULATION
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; it is hoped that the 2021 state legislative session is just the start.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Fall 2021🖨️ Print post