Expanded cottage food sales advanced

A bill that would allow Nebraskans to sell foods already authorized for sale at farmers’ markets to customers from their homes and at certain other events advanced from general file April 8.

<a href='http://news.legislature.ne.gov/dist45' target='_blank' title='Link to the website of Sen. Sue Crawford'>Sen. Sue Crawford</a>
Sen. Sue Crawford

Current law authorizes the sale of foods such as baked goods and uncut fruits and vegetables directly to a consumer at a farmers’ market if the consumer is informed by a sign at the sale location that the food was prepared in a kitchen that was not subject to regulation and inspection.

As introduced by Bellevue Sen. Sue Crawford, LB304 would expand that provision to direct consumer sales at a fair, festival, craft show or other public event or for pickup or delivery at the seller’s private home.

Crawford said the proposal is part of the Legislature’s efforts in recent years to eliminate regulatory barriers to earning an income.

“It’s critical that the state continue to pursue innovative approaches that allow all Nebraskans to earn an income,” she said.

An Agriculture Committee amendment, adopted 39-0, would replace the bill. It would require producers other than those selling directly to consumers at a farmers’ market to complete a nationally accredited food safety and handling course or a certified food safety and handling training course offered at a culinary school or as required by a county, city or village to obtain a food handler permit.

For sales made for pickup at or delivery from a private home or other area, notification would be required at the home or area, on the producer’s website and in any advertisement for sales. For sales at a farmers’ market, fair, festival, craft show or other public event, notification would be required at the sale location.

The amendment would require delivery to be made in a person-to-person transaction, by U.S. mail or by a commercial mail delivery service. It also would require the name and address of the producer to be included on the package or container label.

A producer also would be required to follow food safety and handling guidelines for sale at a farmers’ market, fair, festival, craft show or other public event required by the county, city or village where the food is sold.

If a producer uses private well water to produce food, he or she must have the water tested for nitrates or bacteria before producing and selling food.

Finally, a producer selling from a private home would be required to register with the state Department of Agriculture before conducting any sales.

Blair Sen. Ben Hansen supported the bill, saying it would allow more Nebraskans to start small businesses from their homes.

“What better way to promote small business and individual enterprise than promoting cottage foods?” Hansen said.

Senators voted 41-0 to advance the bill to select file.

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