Cottage foods & farmers market permit bills scheduled for hearing

 

Two of our top priority bills are up for a hearing on Tuesday, April 2.

The cottage foods bill, SB572, would significantly expand opportunities for people to make low-risk products in their home kitchens and sell them directly to consumers anywhere in the state.

The permit fee cap bill, SB 932, would put a stop to the excessive fees that many local governments have been charging farmers’ market vendors – helping improve small farmers’ profits while increasing options for consumers (since excessive fees keep many small producers out of certain markets).

Both these bills will be heard by the Senate Health & Human Services Committee on Tuesday, April 2, at 8 a.m.  Help us move them forward by taking action – all the details are below!

We expect both bills to face stiff opposition from retailers who don’t like competition and local health departments who don’t want to have their powers limited.  Having people call and, even better, register at the hearing is really important!

 


Cottage Foods – SB 572

 

The original version of SB 572 was a little narrow, but we’ve been told that there will be a committee substitute that will look a lot like HB 2108.  The committee substitute of SB 572 will allow cottage food producers (i.e. people making food in their home kitchens) to:

  • Sell any non-Time/Temperature Controlled for Safety food (i.e. those foods that do not need to be kept refrigerated to prevent the growth of bacteria) directly to consumers, up to $50,000 per year;
  • Sell pickled vegetables, acidifed canned goods, fermented products, and frozen fruits & vegetables, subject to some very basic health & safety measures;
  • Use internet platforms (such as paypal or Facebook marketplace) for selling, so long as the delivery is in person; and
  • Sell at any location, so long as it is a direct-to-consumer transaction.

Capping Permit Fees – SB 932

 

Permit fees impose a financial burden on many small farmers and local food producers, who are small businesses with low profit margins.  The fees discourage farmers from participating in farmers’ markets, particularly smaller markets in less affluent areas.  The fees also discourage value-added and prepared food producers from participating in the markets, thereby reducing the markets’ long-term viability.

SB 932 would cap the permit fees imposed by local health department on farmers selling directly to consumers and other farmers’ market vendors at $50 per year, per jurisdiction.  This supports small farms and food businesses, as well as helping to make local foods more available.


And another good bill:

SB 1834, by Senator Alvarado, will also be heard at Tuesday’s Committee hearing.  This bill would establish a pilot program for incentives for SNAP to be used to purchase fruits and vegetables at farmers’ markets. SB 1834 is likely to be much less controversial than the cottage foods or permit fee cap bill, so we recommend focusing on SB 572 and SB 932 when you call your Senator (to maximize the impact).  But if you come to the Capitol for the hearing, take a moment to also register your support for this bill that helps promote healthy food access and encourage more people to buy from local farmers.

 


TAKE ACTION #1: Make the Call

 

Call your State Senator.  You can find out who that is by going to our Elected Officials Lookup  or calling the Texas Capitol Switchboard at 512-463-4630.

Your message can be short and simple – and is most powerful when it is in your own words.  Focus on why the bills matter to you, and use the sample message just to help you think of your own message:

“Hi, my name is ___, and I live in [town].  I am calling to urge Senator ___ to co-author SB 572, the cottage food bill, and SB 932, the permit fee cap bill.

The cottage food law allows people to sell low-risk foods directly to consumers without the expense and challenges posed by commercial kitchen licensing.  The first Texas cottage food law has been a success – over a thousand new businesses established, and not a single reported case of foodborne illness.  It’s time to build on that success!  Many other states allow all non-time/temperature controlled foods to be sold, and don’t limit the sales to specific locations, and Texas should do the same.  And adding pickled and fermented foods would meet a growing area of consumer demand for health, local produce – and let farmers do better by preserving their harvests.  SB 572 supports consumer choice and local food businesses.

SB 932 addresses the problem that many local health departments charge excessive permit fees on people selling foods at farmers markets.  Producers often have to pay a separate fee for each market, or for different foods, and may even have to renew their permits every two weeks!  These fees keep small producers out of some markets – and force others to raise their prices to compensate.  Several other states limit permit fees on farmers’ markets vendors, or even exempt farmers selling direct to consumers from all fees.  SB 932 takes a moderate approach by capping the fees at $50 per year per jurisdiction.

I ask Senator ___ to support small local food businesses and co-author both bills.”

If you email (or call and then follow up with an email – which is the best option), you can also attach our fact sheets on the bills:

 


TAKE ACTION #2: Come to the Hearing

 

WHEN: Tuesday, April 2, 2019.   Witness registration should begin by 7:30 am and could end as early as 8:30 am (it depends on when the bills are actually heard)

WHERE: Senate Committee on Health & Human Services, in the Senate Chamber, 2nd floor of the Capitol.

WHAT: Register to support SB 572 (Cottage foods), SB 932 (capping permit fees), and SB 1834 (SNAP incentives).

 

There are two ways to register:

  1. If you are registering in support of the bills, and planning not to testify, you can use the kiosks in the Capitol Extension hallways on floor E1 or use your Ipad and go to http://swrs on public-capitol network once you are in the building.

We recommend this for most people – the strongest showing in support of a bill happens when we have just a handful of people testify (so that it’s not a long, drawn-out hearing), but LOTS of people register in support of the bill.

  1. If you are planning to testify, come to the Senate Chamber and ask the clerk for a witness registration form for each bill. Fill it out and then hand it back to the clerk.

Once you register, 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 Senate after the hearing, the legislators will look to see how many people were witnesses for or against the bill. Just 15 minutes can have an impact!

If you want to testify, please plan to keep your comments very short and concise. Please email Judith@FarmAndRanchFreedom.org so that we can help coordinate!