Press Release (Texas): Texas Senate Approves Cottage Foods, Farmers Market, and DSHS Better Communications Bills

 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


Texas Senate Approves Cottage Foods, Farmers Market, and DSHS Better Communications Bills

Significant Growth in Support for Local Food Movement at Capitol

AUSTIN, Texas – May 23, 2013 – Yesterday, the Texas Senate voted to pass HB 970, the Cottage Foods Bill sponsored by Senator Robert Deuell (R-Greenville); HB 1382, the Farmers Market Bill (also sponsored by Senator Deuell); and HB 1392, the DSHS Better Communications Act sponsored Senator Jane Nelson (R-Grapevine). All three bills will now go to the Governor for signing.

HB 970 expands on last session’s cottage foods law, allowing cottage food producers to make low-risk foods – such as baked goods, jams and jellies, dried herbs, dried fruits and vegetables, granolas, dry mixes, pickles, and coffee/tea mixes – and sell at places such as farmers markets and community events, as well as from home.

“Patrons at farmers markets will soon be able to take advantage of a much wider selection of locally produced foods. It’s all part of preserving our local foods and local culture, while keeping our money in our local economy,” said Kelley Masters, owner of Home Sweet Home Bakery and founder of the grassroots cottage foods movement Texas Baker’s Bill.

HB 1382, known as the “Farmers Market” Bill, establishes clear, reasonable standards for sampling at farmers’ markets and farm stands, replacing the current overly burdensome and confusing regulations. The bill also clarifies the requirements for cooking demonstrations and exempts educational demonstrations from permit fees.

“How wonderful for a farmer to be able to slice a black Spanish radish or a kohlrabi for a shopper to taste just as they do at farmers’ markets across the country. This education is so important in our mission to encourage families to eat more fruits and vegetables while increasing farmers’ revenues,” said Carla Jenkins, manager of the Cedar Park and Mueller Farmers’ Markets.

The DSHS Better Communications Act, HB 1392, directs the DSHS to respond within 30 days to inquiries about how the law applies to a farmer’s or food producer’s specific circumstances, so they can comply in good faith. Farmers and small-scale food producers have faced serious problems in the past because of the inability to determine what is actually required under the regulations.

“DSHS often gives our direct-to-consumer businesses multiple answers to the question of what types of permits we need or, if questioned as to why we fit into specific categories of permits, simply won’t give an answer at all. Family ranches that are providing safe and healthy meats to consumers want to be in compliance – we just need clear direction, and this bill would make that a reality,” said Amy Greer, owner and operator of Winters Family Beef.

Both the cottage foods and farmers’ market bills have been supported by the Farm-to-Table Caucus, founded in the spring of 2012 by Representative Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin) and Representative Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), to educate members of the Texas House of Representatives on issues relating to the growing, harvesting and consumption of Texas foods.

The 83rd Texas Legislature marks significant progress in support for the local food movement at the Capitol. In 2011, only three local foods bills were even filed, and only one passed; this session, nine bills were filed and three of them passed. In a session remarkable for the number of bills that died without being voted on, this success rate reflects the legislators’ awareness of their constituents’ support for local foods.

For more information visit www.farmandranchfreedom.org/texas-local-food-bills-2013

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About Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance
Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA) is a national organization that supports independent family farmers and protects a healthy and productive food supply for American consumers. FARFA promotes common sense policies for local, diversified agricultural systems.