Wyoming became the first state in the country to adopt a "food freedom" law last week. The Wyoming Food Freedom Act (FFA) is a dramatic law that serves to deregulate many direct-to-consumer food sales. It will be a boon to the state's consumers and to many of the state's smaller farmers.
Advocates are cheering its passage. The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund's Pete Kennedy told me the FFA is a "major step in the movement back towards a time when the government left farm to consumer direct commerce alone."
Notably, the FFA passed with bipartisan support. Earlier this week, I emailed Republican State Rep. Tyler Lindholm, who co-sponsored the bill with a handful of others, including Democratic State Rep. Stan Blake, and asked him about the bill.
Reason: Who drafted and sponsored the FFA?
Rep. Tyler Lindholm: The bill was originally drafted by the late Representative Sue Wallis who passed away last year. I had followed this piece of legislation in the past as a supporter, and was happy to pick up the gauntlet during my first session. Representative[s] Blake, Hunt, and Senator Driskill co-sponsored the bill with me.
Reason: What was the inspiration behind the FFA?
Rep. Lindholm: Individual freedom, nutrition, local support, the list goes on. This bill touches on so many issues that are paramount to a truly free society. While we have a long road ahead of us, Food Freedom is a big step in the right direction.
Reason: Who supported and opposed the FFA?
Rep. Lindholm: Representative Blake is a Democrat and a cosponsor of this legislation, and all Democrats in the House supported this legislation. The freedom of choice is a bipartisan effort and one that was recognized in the great state of Wyoming. We saw the large majority of opposition stem from special interest groups that require labeling and inspection for their product, and a bipartisan group of legislators that honestly believe raw milk will be the demise of our society. I would be remiss not to mention the statewide papers in Wyoming all wrote editorials condemning this effort, specifically for children's safety.
Reason: Did Wyoming already have in place a Cottage Food Law? If so, how does the new Food Freedom Act enhance the rights of producers?
Rep. Lindholm: Wyoming's cottage food law specifically dealt with non-profits and decriminalized their sales, as an example religious institutions, and youth groups. I found that laughable as there is no difference in a product, whether its being sold for-profit or not and Wyoming's existing law, whether it meant to or not, stated that. The Cottage Food Law is still in place, much like herd shares, but with the Food Freedom law in place now we have effectively made them a very moot point.
Reason: What are some foods, if any, that aren't protected under the FFA?
Rep. Lindholm: The sale of processed meat, except poultry, is not allowed under the Food Freedom Act. The reason for this is USDA regulations and the threat of the state possibly losing its status under the USDA because of this act. We have to find a workable solution to this issue and you can expect to see legislation in the future dealing with this issue so that ranchers and farmers can also sell beef and pork directly to consumers also. This is just the beginning.
Reason: The FFA shifts some liability from producers to consumers, including children. How will that work in practice?
Rep. Lindholm: Buyer beware. Producers are still liable under this act if they sell a bad product to consumers, so the free market will handle this situation better than any amount of government interaction ever could.
Reason: Does your family have a connection to farming/ranching? If so, please explain.
Rep. Lindholm: I grew up on my family ranch and still live there with my family now. We raise beef cattle primarily, but my wife also has laying hens that she sells eggs from in town. Her sales amount to enough money to pay for feed for the chickens, basically we're not getting rich off of her eggs.
Reason: What are the implications of the FFA's passage? Have you heard from legislators in other states who might want to copy your efforts?
Rep. Lindholm: This legislation is literally a game changer for Agriculture in Wyoming. In the weeks since its passage I have already heard radio ads for milk and other products. This was not happening before in the open, and due to the bill's passage these producers are able to sell their product as more than just a hobby. Decades ago farms and ranches used to subsidize their income utilizing these practices, but due to heavy handed regulation in years past, they have not had the opportunity to do so. Small operations have disappeared, started to subsidize their income through the federal government, or taken jobs in town just to make ends meet. It is my hope and belief that small farms and ranches will have the opportunity to reject these practices and help their community turn back to its roots by giving them the opportunity to purchase products locally. Needless to say I am very excited for this summer's farmer markets. The free market is suddenly hip on the farm again.