Action Alert (Texas): Cottage Foods Bill Gets a Hearing on Wednesday, March 27

 
Thank you to everyone who has called, written their legislators, registered or testified at a hearing, or joined us at the Citizens Lobbying Day! Our movement is growing quickly, and the legislators are taking note of it.

With nine bills before the Texas Legislature, the next ten weeks are going to be extremely busy. You won’t be able to take action on every alert, and we realize that. But please do take action as often, and in whatever way, you can. Whether it’s coming to a hearing in person or taking two minutes to make a phone call, your efforts – combined with those of farmers and consumers across the state – really do make a difference! Click here for an update on all the local foods bills.

HB 970, the “cottage foods” bill, will get a hearing before the House Public Health Committee on Wednesday, March 27. Click here for details.

 
 

Background on Cottage Foods and Overview of HB 970

 
Prior to 2011, it was illegal in Texas to sell any food made in one’s home. Last session, SB 81 provided that “cottage food producers” could make specific low-risk foods (such as cakes, cookies, and jams) in their homes and sell directly to consumers, up to $50,000 per year, without being regulated by the health department.

The new law has led to the establishment and growth of numerous small businesses across the state, with no reports of foodborne illness resulting. But while SB 81 provided an excellent start, it had several limitations: (1) it only allows sales directly from the home; (2) it only covers a few types of foods; and (3) it has been circumvented by several local health departments who have invoked zoning restrictions on “retail” activity in residential areas.

farmers-market-jarsHB 970 would solve these problems by:

  • Expanding the allowable list of foods to include other low-risk foods, such as candy, nuts, nut and fruit butters, dried fruits and vegetables, cereal, granola, dry mixes, pickles, and vinegar.
  • Expanding the list of allowable locations to include farmers’ markets, farm stands, fairs, bridal shows, and similar events. Sales are still limited to direct producer-to-consumer transactions.
  • Exempting cottage food producers from zoning restrictions. The bill explicitly protects neighbors’ claims for nuisance or any other issue, in case there ever is a problem.

Please come support this important bill at the Committee hearing on Wednesday, March 27. CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS.

While you’re at the Capitol, you can increase your impact by taking a few minutes to visit your Representative and Senator in person. We’ll have flyers available with information on all the local foods bills, to make it easy.
 
 

Can’t Come to the Capitol? You Can Still Help!

 
No matter where you live in Texas, you can help support the cottage foods bill at the hearing this week:

1) Call or email your State Representative to urge him or her to co-author HB 970, the cottage foods bill. You can find out who represents you at www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us or by calling the Texas Capitol Switchboard at 512-463-4630.

Sample email: “My name is ___, and I am a constituent. I urge you to co-author HB 970, the cottage foods bill. I am a ______ (consumer of local foods, farmer who wants to make value-added products, home baker — briefly explain who you are and why you care about this issue). Please show your support for small businesses and consumer choice by co-authoring HB 970.”

2) Then email all of the Public Health Committee members to urge them to approve the bill as soon as possible. The list of Committee members and their email addresses are at the end of this alert.
 
 

Committee Hearing Logistics

 
DATE: Wednesday, March 27, 2013

TIME: 8:00 am. The Public Health Committee will meet from 8 am to 10 am, and then re-convene in the afternoon after the House adjourns. If you need to leave early, don’t worry — you’ll still have made an impact simply be registering (see What to Do, below).

LOCATION: Capitol Extension, Room E2.012. Click here for map.

PARKING: Parking is usually available at the Capitol Visitors Center, located between Trinity and San Jacinto Streets at 12th and 13th. Click here for a map and other parking options.

WHAT TO DO: Come to the hearing room between 7 am and 9 am, and sign in at a kiosk saying you support HB 970. (The kiosk may be open after 9 am; we will post updates on our Facebook page.) You’ll be listed on the witness list even if you leave right after that. The witness list is important because, when the bill goes to the full House after the hearing, the Representatives will look to see how many people were witnesses for or against the bill. Just 15 minutes can have an impact!

If you can stay for the hearing, sign in at the kiosk in support of the bill and then grab a seat. Simply being there and helping to fill the room with bodies who are watching the hearing in person makes an impact on the Committee members.

If you want to testify, please email Judith@FarmAndRanchFreedom.org, and we can explain the process in more detail. Remember that the Committee has to hear a lot of bills that day, so we need to respect their time and keep all testimony short and focused on the issue.

SIGNING IN: The Texas Legislature now uses electronic witness affirmation forms which are available at registration kiosks located throughout the Capitol Extension. Take the elevator down to Floor E2, and walk down the main hallway about halfway. Turn down one of the side hallways, then turn again so that you are going parallel to the main hallway. You’ll see little alcoves, where there used to be pay phones — the kiosks are in there.

Be sure to bring this information with you:

  • Bill number: HB 970
  • Committee name: House Public Health Committee
  • Time and location of the hearing (View upcoming meetings): 8:00 am, Room E2.012

If you have any questions that day, please feel free to call or send a text message to Alexandra Landeros at 512-537-2692.
 
 

MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE PUBLIC HEALTH COMMITTEE

 

  • Garnet Coleman (part of Houston County – Zip Codes 77002, 003, 004, 006, 007, 010, 019, 021, 033, 048, 061, 075, 087, 089, 098) | Phone: 512-463-0524 | Email: Garnet.Coleman@house.state.tx.us
  • Nicole Collier (part of Tarrant County – Zip Codes 76012, 76102, 76103, 76104, 76105, 76107, 76110, 76111, 76112, 7615, 76119, 76120, 76133, 76134, 76140) |  Phone: 512-463-0716 | Email: Nicole.Collier@house.state.tx.us
  • Philip Cortez (part of Bexar County – Zip Codes 78002, 006, 023, 039, 052, 073, 211, 224, 226, 227, 236, 242, 245, 251, 252, 253, 254, 255) | Phone: 512-463-0269 | Email: Philip.Cortez@house.state.tx.us
  • Sarah Davis (part of Houston County – Zip Codes 77002, 004, 005, 006, 007, 008, 019, 024, 025, 027, 030, 046, 056, 057, 081, 096, 098, 401) | Phone: 512-463-0389 | Email: Sarah.Davis@house.state.tx.us
  • Bobby Guerra (part of Hidalgo County – Zip Codes 78501, 78503, 78504, 78539, 78572, 78573, 78574, 78577) | Phone: 512-463-0578 | Email: Bobby.Guerra@house.state.tx.us
  • Susan King (Jones, Nolan, and Taylor counties) | Phone: 512-463-0718 | Email: Susan.King@house.state.tx.us
  • Lois Kolkhorst Chair (Austin, Burleson, Colorado, Fayette, Grimes, Lavaca, and Washington counties) | Phone: 512-463-0600 | Email: Lois.Kolkhorst@house.state.tx.us

*If you are in Chairwoman Kolkhorst’s district, please be sure to say “thank you for joint authoring HB 970!

  • Jodie Laubenberg (part of Collin County – Zip Codes 75002, 75048, 75069, 75074, 75087, 75094, 75098, 75166, 75173, 75189, 75407) | Phone: 512-463-0186 | Email: Jodie.Laubenberg@house.state.tx.us
  • Elliott Naishtat Vice Chair (part of the City of Austin – Zip Codes 78701, 78703, 78704, 78705, 78712, 78731, 78735, 78745, 78746, 78751, 78752, 78756, 78757, 78758, 78759) | Phone: 512-463-0668 | Email: Elliott.Naishtat@house.state.tx.us
  • J.D. Sheffield (Comanche, Coryell, Erath, Hamilton, McCulloch, Mills, San Saba, and Somervell counties) | Phone: 512-463-0628 | Email: J.D.Sheffield@house.state.tx.us
  • Bill Zedler (part of Tarrant County – Zip Codes 76001, 76002, 76017, 76028, 76036, 76060, 76063, 76123, 76134, 76140) | Phone: 512-463-0374 | Email: Bill.Zedler@house.state.tx.us