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New program has registered thousands of cottage food producers

By Jonathan Mohr

More than 3,000 cottage food producers have registered with the Department of Agriculture through a system developed in 2015 when new laws were passed more than tripling the annual income limit for home cooks and gardeners who sell their products to the public.

The House Agriculture Finance Committee heard the information Tuesday as part of the department’s ongoing overview presentation, which began at the committee’s Jan. 26 meeting and is set to continue Feb. 7.

During that time, division directors have taken turns walking the committee thru a high-level look at the work each oversees. The divisions are:

  • Marketing and Development
  • Pesticide and Fertilizer Management
  • Dairy and Meat Inspection
  • Plant Protection
  • Food and Feed Safety
  • Laboratory Services

Ben Miller, director of the Food and Feed Safety Division, talked about its work to ensure the integrity of the state’s food supply by regulating and providing education related to the production, manufacture and sale of food and animal feed products.

Cottage Food Producer Registration involves a five-step process that includes basic or advanced training based on a tiered sales scale. Those who sell $5,000 or less annually receive the basic training, while advanced training is required for those who sell $5,001 to $18,000 each year.

In addition to the update on cottage food producers, Miller said the department is readying another online service that would guide new food business owners to the needed licenses using an interface similar to tax-preparation software. Users respond to a series of questions that guide them to the proper licenses.

Rep. Rod Hamilton (R-Mountain Lake), the committee chair, said the department’s Feb. 7 presentation would include a discussion of Gov. Mark Dayton’s base budget and change item recommendations for the upcoming biennium.

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