Texas drafts changes to farmers’ market regulations

Published December 16, 2021

   

The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) has posted draft changes to the regulations governing farmers markets and cottage food producers. This is an informal process that allows people to have input before the agency goes into the formal rulemaking process.

The timeline is very short … comments are due Tuesday, Dec. 21. DSHS staff will review the comments, and then formally propose rules (probably in the spring), at which point there will be a 30-day period for public comments. In practical terms, the agency staff generally have a very clear idea of where they want to go by the time it gets to the formal rulemaking stage, so this informal comment period is one of the best ways to impact the process.

FARFA has done a very quick initial review, and we don’t see any problems at this time. We will do a deeper dive into the draft regulations, and we also welcome your feedback!

You can read the draft rules at Retail Food Establishments – Texas Department of State Health Services. They also have a link posted for emailing comments to the agency

Note that the chapter being amended is specific to farmers’ markets. The regular TFER (Texas Food Establishment Rules) are unaffected.

There appear to be three main categories of proposed changes to the farmers’ market chapter:

  1. New definitions of “farmers’ markets” and “producer” to match up to the statutory changes we fought for!
  2. Non-substantive terminology changes (changing “potentially hazardous” to “time or temperature controlled for safety” and all the associated acronyms).
  3. Changes to how long meats have to reach designated temperatures in order to be considered fully cooked.

The Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance is working on comments to the agency, and, if needed, we will also reach out to staff directly before rules are formally proposed. We welcome input from farmers and farmers market organizers, both on whether any of the changes raise concerns and whether there are other changes that you would urge. (Again, however, note that the chapter under consideration doesn’t override the TFER. So, there are many topics, such as egg grading, which simply aren’t within the scope of this process.)

Please email Judith@FarmAndRanchFreedom.org with any questions or comments.