Update on Cottage Foods Rule and TAHC’s Cattle ID Rule – 2012

Thank you for speaking up in support of local food producers. The Texas Department of State Health Services has issued its final regulation for cottage food producers, and it’s (mostly) good news! At the same time, though, the Texas Animal Health Commission has ignored almost all of the comments they received and issued a new rule requiring tagging of adult cattle. More details are below.

Cottage Foods Rule

The cottage foods bill is a wonderful, simple law that we succeeded in passing last session. It allows individuals to make certain low-risk foods (non-hazardous baked goods, canned jams and jellies, and dried herbs) in their home kitchens and sell the foods directly to consumers without being regulated by the local or state health departments. There are a few conditions: sales must be less than $50,000 per year, the sale must occur at the home, and no internet sales are allowed.

The bill included one section that gave the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) authority to write rules: it requires that the cottage food producer label the food in accordance with rules issued by DSHS. Even there, the bill set out the requirements in clear, simple terms.

Last winter, DSHS abused that authority and proposed an extensive, complicated rule that made no sense in the context of direct-to-consumer sales.

Hundreds of you submitted comments on the proposed rule, and the agency listened!

DSHS has issued its final rule for cottage foods, and it complies with the terms and intent of the cottage foods bill. The label must be legible and contain: the name and physical address of the cottage food producer, the common or usual name of the product, and the statement “This food is made in a home kitchen and is not inspected by the Department of State Health Services or a local health department.” If the food contains one of the six major food allergens — eggs, buts, soy, peanuts, milk, or wheat — that ingredient must be listed on the label. And that is all.

Unfortunately, the agency still used this rule to unnecessarily add “cut tomatoes” and “cut leafy greens” to the list of potentially hazardous foods. That is something we will work to address in the next legislative session, in addition to working to expand the cottage foods bill to allow for more types of foods and sales at farmers markets.

Thank you to everyone who sent comments in and contacted their legislators to intervene!

Texas Tagging Rule For Cattle

The Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) is moving ahead with a new rule to require the official tagging of adult cattle.

The agency had originally proposed a rule to require that adult cattle, dairy cattle, and cattle used in “exhibitions” be “officially identified” with ear tags at sale barns. FARFA objected to the proposal, and the agency ultimately withdrew it. In its place, the agency proposed a somewhat narrower rule that would require adult cattle to be officially identified with ear tags when sold.

FARFA and others still objected to the new proposed rule. One of the main problems is that TAHC is substituting the testing of adult cattle for brucellosis — a measure that actually addresses disease — with simply sticking tags in their ears — a measure that does nothing to prevent or address disease. In particular, tagging cattle that are going direct to slaughter is a waste of time and money for ranchers, who have neither to spare.

Despite the many comments opposing the rule completely, and many others that requested an exemption for direct-to-slaughter animals, the agency adopted the rule with no changes. Beginning in January 2013, all adult cattle in Texas will have to be officially identified when they are sold.

FARFA is considering what options remain for challenging the new rule.