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Home cooks hope new bill is a recipe for more money

Homemade pickles are just one of the items home cooks could sell to the public under HF910. Photo by Andrew VonBank

If you’re handy with a rolling pin or a garden hoe and want to earn some additional income, the pot of money you can make will be growing if a bill heard by the House Agriculture Finance Committee Thursday eventually becomes law.

Sponsored by Rep. Jim Newberger (R-Becker), HF910 would more than triple the annual income limit for home cooks and gardeners who sell their products to the public, and expand the avenues they have to do so.

Under the current law, people are allowed to sell foods classified as not “potentially hazardous” at community events or farmer’s markets without a food-handler license, and there is annual limit of $5,000 on those sales.

The bill would raise that limit to $18,000 and allow non-licensed individuals to sell food directly to consumers from their homes, if allowed by local ordinance and provided the food is delivered to the consumer by the person who prepared it. Internet sales would also be allowed, although the same requirement that delivery must be made by the preparer would also apply.

HF910, which was laid over for possible omnibus bill inclusion, would also require sellers to pay the Department of Agriculture an annual $50 registration fee and attend a safe food handler training course every three years.

“This bill will open the economic doors to my friend Connie and her double-chocolate brownies,” Marianne Sussman said.

Sussman, who testified on behalf of individual cottage food operators in the state, said the bill would give retired and underemployed Minnesotans who love to cook an opportunity for greater financial independence.

Newberger said the bill would bring income levels for cooks and canners “into the 21st century.”

“This is really designed to help folks make some supplemental income,” Newberger said. “People who have a home baking or a home canning skill, or a good garden, and want to sell some of their products.”

Kathy Zeman, an organic farmer who works part-time for the Minnesota Farmer’s Market Association, said her organization helped craft the bill and “wholeheartedly supports” it, including the provision mandating safety training.

“We believe this bill will allow food entrepreneurs to grow and help build their communities while still maintaining a high level of safety,” Zeman said.

Ingredients

HF910 does not specifically spell out which foods can be sold other than “pickles, vegetables or fruits having an equilibrium pH value of 4.6 or lower.” However, foods considered “potentially hazardous” under state law include raw or heat-treated eggs, milk, meat, cooked rice and potatoes, raw seed sprouts, cut melons and others.

Kathy Zeman, right, and Marianne Sussman, center, testify before the House Agriculture Finance Committee March 26 in support of a bill sponsored by Rep. Jim Newberger, left, that would provide direct sale of prepared food licensing exclusions. Photo by Andrew VonBank

HF910 also contains language prohibiting sales to other states. This prompted Rep. Mark Anderson (R-Lake Shore) to ask if that would actually be enforced. Newberger said there was no enforcement provision being considered.

However, Zeman said it is currently illegal under federal law for pickled items to cross state lines but the issue is already addressed in the training programs that have been developed.

“It’s very confusing to many of our vendors in Wisconsin who know they can bake in Wisconsin and sell their baked goods at farmer’s markets in Minnesota but they can’t bring their pickled items,” Zeman said. “We’ll handle this on the training side.”

Newberger said working on HF910 had been a “really nice journey” and a very collaborative process.

“This is truly a bipartisan bill and you can go home and be proud of it,” he said.

The companion, SF1249, is sponsored by Sen. D. Scott Dibble (DFL-Mpls) and awaits action by the Senate   Finance Committee.


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