URGENT: Please call to support local foods bills — HB 2084 and HB 3387 — in Texas
Right now, anyone who wants to bake a few pies or make a few jars of jam to sell to their friends and neighbors must have a commercial kitchen and be inspected by the state. The regulatory requirements can cost over ten thousand dollars, hurting small businesses and preventing start-ups from having a chance.
HB 2084, the local and “cottage foods” bill, would allow small-scale producers selling low-risk foods — baked goods, jams, and dried herbs — directly to consumers to do so without these expenses. The bill benefits local economies and small businesses by removing unnecessary regulatory burdens and promoting local food production. HB 2084 recognizes that food produced on a small-scale and sold directly to consumers is different than food produced by the massive industrialized system in which the major food safety problems have occurred.
Additionally, HB 2084 helps local foods even more by calling for legislative hearings on issues such as the regulatory fees imposed on artisan cheesemakers, the barriers to food stamp beneficiaries being able to buy fresh produce at farmers markets, and the property tax problems faced by community gardens, urban farms, and sustainable farmers.
Another local foods bill, HB 3387, would establish clear, reasonable standards for farmers’ markets and protect against some unduly burdensome regulations.
HB 2084 and HB 3387 provide vital support for the local foods movement in Texas. Please help us get these wonderful bills passed! The deadline for the Texas House to approve House Bills is this week, so we need your calls in support as soon as possible.
1) Call your State Representative and urge him or her to vote YES on HB 2084 and HB 3387.
You can call the Capitol Switchboard at 512-463-4630 and ask to be connected to your Representative’s office, or you can look up who represents you online at http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us
The legislators are working long hours, so you can call at any time of the day. If you get their voice mail, leave a message saying: “Hi, my name is ____. I am a constituent. I urge Representative ______ to vote Yes on both HB 2084 and HB 3387. Thank you.”
2) Call your State Senator and ask him or her to sponsor HB 2084 and HB 3387 and support them in the Senate.
Under current law, anyone who prepares any food for sale must have a commercial kitchen license. The cost of a commercial kitchen can be prohibitive for start-up businesses and small-scale producers.
HB 2084 would allow small-scale producers selling specific low-risk foods directly to consumers to do so without the expense and burdens of the current commercial kitchen requirements. The listed foods are baked goods, jams, jellies, and dried herbs, all of which are recognized as non-hazardous by FDA. Individuals selling less than $50,000 of these foods directly to consumers either from their own home or at a farmers market would be exempt from regulation.
At least eighteen other states have similar laws already on the books: Alabama, Connecticut, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Wyoming.
HB 2084 was unanimously approved by the Public Health Committee. Over 150 people and organizations registered in support, including the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, Sustainable Food Center, Texas Impact, and Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association.
HB 2084 also helps local foods by calling for legislative hearings on the following issues:
* Helping small-scale cheesemakers: Due to a 2007 bill, fees on small-scale cheesemakers and dairy producers have gone up from as little as $52/yr to as much as $600/yr, depending on the size of the producer and their source of milk. These fees threaten to drive small producers out of business.
* Improving access to healthy, local foods for low-income individuals: The SNAP program (formerly Food Stamps) is administered at the state level using Electronic Benefits Transfer (“EBT”), similar to debit cards. The state provides EBT terminals to retailers, but these wired terminals are not practical for outdoor farmers’ markets. Farmers markets provide access to fresh fruits and vegetables in “food deserts” and underserved communities with less overhead expense and construction time as compared to establishing a supermarket or grocery store.
* Providing for fair property tax treatment: Under Section 23.51 of the Tax Code, “qualified open space land” includes land “devoted principally to agricultural use to the degree of intensity generally accepted in the area.” But community gardens, urban farms, family farms raising fruits and vegetables, and sustainable livestock farms have often been denied fair property tax valuations under the claim that they are not truly “agricultural” uses. If the land is being used primarily to produce food to feed people, it should be valued as such.
HB 3387, the “farmers’ market bill,” sets clear, reasonable standards for sampling foods at farmers markets; clarifies that permits can be granted to prepare food on-site year-round, without limitations on the number of days; and bars unnecessary and burdensome regulations that require mechanical refrigeration to keep foods cold.
For more information, go to www.FarmAndRanchFreedom.org