Legislative Testimony for LB304: Exempt certain operations from the definition of a food establishment under the Nebraska Pure Food Act

Good afternoon Chairman Halloran and members of the Agriculture Committee.  My name is Nicole Fox, and I am the Director of Government Relations for the Platte Institute. 
 

Thank you for this opportunity to discuss cottage food law in Nebraska.  LB304 reduces barriers for potential entrepreneurs and allows them to achieve what we refer to in Nebraska as the “Good Life,” which is a legislative priority of the Platte Institute. 
 

I would like to thank Sen. Crawford for introducing this bill.  It addresses the limitations imposed on producers of non-perishable baked goods, jams and jellies prepared in their home kitchens, also known as “cottage foods.”
 

Last summer, a woman from western Nebraska reached out to the Platte Institute after learning about our support of last year’s cottage food bill.  She could not be here today, but I’d like to tell you her story.  She is a grandmother who helps take care of her grandson because her daughter, a single mother, cannot afford daycare.  To supplement her limited retirement income, she prepares sugar-free brownies and fruit pies to sell at the local farmers market as she sees a demand for these types of baked goods.  She would like to be able to prepare these baked goods and sell them from her home all year long. 
 

For some individuals in our state, the ability for them to generate an income may be limited.  In rural Nebraska, there are often limited flexible income-earning, particularly for women.  Some individuals have an elderly parent or a family member with special needs and cannot work outside the home.  Stay at home parents may want to earn extra income to help cover expenses for their children’s activities such as scouting, dance lessons, music lessons and sports.
 

And finally, for some, their desire is to ultimately establish a brick and mortar business, but they currently do not have the collateral to qualify for a small business loan.
 

Current law imposes a barrier to these individuals.  Nebraska’s Pure Food Act allows cottage foods to be sold at farmers markets only, and these farmers markets typically run from May/June to September/October.  LB304 is a simple solution.  It amends Nebraska’s Pure Food Act to allow individuals to sell their jams, jellies and non-perishable baked goods already authorized for sale at farmers markets to consumers directly from their homes all year long. 
 

In August of 2018, the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) updated it’s 2013 report.1   The report includes an appendix that explains the cottage food laws in every state and shares citations and links to state materials.  Over the past few years, more and more states have been expanding their cottage food laws.  It’s time to expand our law in Nebraska to keep us competitive and allow individuals greater income-earning potential.
 

There have been no reports of food-borne illness due to the consumption of cottage food products in Nebraska, Washington D.C. or the other 48 states that allow the sale of cottage foods.  The only state not allowing cottage foods is New Jersey.
 

The Food and Drug Administration Food Code categorizes jams/jellies, granola, popcorn and shelf stable baked goods as non-time/temperature-controlled foods (non TCS).  Non TCS foods are designated so because they cannot support viral or bacterial growth.2
 

Due to concerns raised during last year’s hearing by opponents, this year’s bill has an added provision to require the cottage foods producer to follow food safety regulations required by the county in which they are selling cottage foods.  For example, if the county requires a food handler permit, the cottage food producer will have to obtain one.
 

The Platte Institute views LB304 as a win for food entrepreneurs, and it will help grow Nebraska’s economy.  I ask that committee members advance LB304 to general file.

 

  1.  https://www.chlpi.org/flpc-releases-cottage-food-laws-united-states-report
  2. https://www.fda.gov/downloads/Food/GuidanceRegulation/RetailFoodProtection/FoodCode/UCM595140.pdf
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