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 food trucks in Nebraska. I would like to thank Sen. Vargas for introducing this bill.
LB 732 streamlines the permitting and inspection processes for food trucks as current regulations and fees vary amongst the different municipalities across the state. Food truck operators would be required to register with the Nebraska Department of Agriculture and pay an initial permit fee of $75 and an annual inspection fee of $40.
In March of 2018, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation released its Food Truck Nation study, reporting that food trucks have emerged as important vehicles for opportunity and growth.1 This study looked at 20 cities across the country. Two midwestern cities were included in the study, Chicago and St. Louis. In those 20 cities, the trend of food trucks morphing into brick and mortar food establishments is increasing rapidly. The study notes that the food truck industry generated over $2.7 billion in 2017, a greater than 300% increase from 2014. On average, starting and maintaining a food truck for one year required an entrepreneur to complete 45 separate government-mandated procedures over the course of 37 business days, and spend over $28,000 on permits, licenses, and ongoing legal compliance. These opportunity costs are significant.
Per my discussion with Senator Vargas’s office, I understand that the 50 foot proximity requirement in section 6(4)(c) “Require a mobile food unit to operate more than fifty feet from the perimeter of an existing retail establishment or restaurant,” was the result of discussions with the Omaha Food Truck Association; but for the record, I would like to note that the Platte Institute does not feel this requirement is necessary. We don’t feel brick and mortar restaurants should need to be treated differently.
I also understand per my discussion with Senator Vargas’s office that the double inspection requirement in section 7(2) in the bill is under reconsideration. Arizona passed a food truck law in 2018 to streamline the operation of mobile food vendors and standardize regulatory practices across the state.2 In the Arizona bill, only an initial inspection is required, and the food truck does not need to be inspected again for operation. The Platte Institute would only advocate for additional inspections if the food truck is cited for critical violations, as defined by the local government where the food truck is operating at the time of inspection, or if a health or safety complaint has been filed.
Food truck operators are entrepreneurs, and like the rest of the country, the growing number of food trucks in Nebraska shows there is demand for this type of business model. Creating a uniform standard for Nebraska’s food trucks is a commonsense move. LB732 is a step in the right direction to help Nebraska’s growing food truck industry by eliminating the barriers caused by varying regulations.
I ask that committee members advance LB732 to general file.