Food Freedom

Wyoming May Improve on Its Great Food Freedom Law

New amendment would allow low-risk foods such as homemade jams to be sold in grocery stores and sold and consumed in restaurants.

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Wyoming lawmakers have introduced a bill that would expand the state's already great, first-in-the-nation food freedom law. If passed, the food freedom amendment would allow low-risk foods such as homemade jams to be sold in grocery stores and sold and consumed in restaurants.

Prospects for passage appear good. Fifty-nine lawmakers voted in favor of the bipartisan amendment, which is now before a legislative committee. None voted in opposition.

For supporters of local food, the food freedom amendment would represent a dramatic improvement to an already great law.

"While some growers and producers have managed to create and market their own home-produced products, many around the state have been unable to branch out beyond the traditional farmers market circuit, forced to travel long distances to the proper venues for their goods," the Casper Star-Tribune reported last week. Expanding permissible sales to restaurants and grocers would be a huge boon for business.

Five years ago, as I detailed shortly after the law took effect, Wyoming became the first state in the nation to pass a food freedom law that deregulated many direct-to-consumer food sales. If you want to sell cookies, homemade cheese, or pickles directly to your neighbor, a friend, or a total stranger, food freedom laws make that possible. Think of food freedom laws as beefed-up cottage food laws—which are on the books in every state but New Jersey.

Since Wyoming made the first major move, a couple of states have followed suit—notably North Dakota and Maine. (In Maine, the state's "food sovereignty" law allows cities and towns to opt in.) 

While there hasn't been a single case of foodborne illness tied to food freedom legislation, that hasn't stopped opponents from attacking the laws regularly. That's particularly evident in North Dakota, where the successful law has faced seemingly constant attacks from the state's public-health regulators, grocers, and others since it took effect in 2017.

As I explained last year, North Dakota attempted to "clarify" the state law by limiting what foods residents may sell and imposing arcane and moronic refrigeration requirements (e.g., effectively banning fresh foods that require refrigeration—such as fruit salad—by requiring that they be transported and sold only in frozen or dehydrated form).

Wyoming has had a much smoother ride. Though there were some early bumps. Five years ago, the editors of the Casper Star-Tribune, Wyoming's biggest paper, were snarky and apoplectic over the passage of the law.

"Count us among those applauding anything that's 'in the way' of consumers contracting foodborne illnesses," they wrote.

Since that time, though, the paper's reporting has applauded the law. Last year, the Star-Tribune reported the Food Freedom Act had "created an opportunity for value-added specialty crop businesses." And here's the Star-Tribune's headline atop an article about the proposed amendments to expand the law this week: "Proposed Food Freedom Act amendments could boost opportunities for Wyoming farmers."

One key reason food freedom has been so successful is because it appeals to people across typical and tedious partisan divides. As I note in my book Biting the Hands That Feed Us: How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable, Wyoming's Food Freedom Act passed with broad support from Democrats and Republicans alike.

But it's not just Wyoming. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which promotes free market policies in state legislatures, has had model food freedom legislation posted at its website for more than two years. And in Virginia, 2017 Democratic House of Delegates candidate Ben Hixon made food freedom central to his campaign platform.

"Wyoming is proud to have one of the best food freedom laws in the country," says Wyoming State Rep. Shelly Duncan (R), who sponsored the amendment, in an email to me this week. "These changes potentially create more income for farmers, stay-at-home parents, retirees, and anyone else who has a talent in the kitchen. The expansion would also allow consumers to buy more fresh, healthy and local food at affordable prices."

Though opponents paint food freedom laws as dangerous, common sense suggests otherwise. If you're one of the likely tens of millions of people in this country who's ever given their child a dollar to buy homemade food at a school bake sale, then food freedom legislation is merely supporting your existing inclinations.

But maybe you prefer not to eat home-cooked foods at, say, a restaurant. The Wyoming law has you covered, as it only allows low-risk third-party food sales and requires the seller to "inform the end consumer that the homemade food is not certified, labeled, licensed, packaged, regulated or inspected." Then it's up to you to decide.

Wyoming's food freedom legislation, like Maine's and North Dakota's laws, isn't a success merely because no one has been sickened due to expanding people's access to local foods. It's a success because it expanded freedom and choice for consumers and producers alike.

That the benefits of more freedom—including expanding economic and culinary opportunities and fostering community—also have not come with the expense of foodborne illness means it's past time more lawmakers across the country embrace food freedom legislation in their states.

NEXT: Today in Supreme Court History: February 15, 1790

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  1. From a libertarian perspective, shouldn’t food freedom laws be unnecessary? Would it not be better to repeal whichever law or laws caused the prohibition in the first place?

    1. Sure, it would be better. Good luck with that.

    2. Yes, of course. If there are government laws on the books prohibiting folks from selling and buying goods and/or services they should be immediately repealed. Additionally the signatories of any such laws should be hunted down, charged, arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Civil suits should be imposed beginning with the dates any such laws were dated, compensating any and all victims for their damages. That’s how such criminals would be handled in a civil society.

    3. If the FDA, EPA, Courts, etc. passed laws to repeal, sure.

  2. snarky and apoplectic

    Nice band duo name.

    1. Apoplectic is the drummer, isn’t he.

      1. I don’t know, but I’ll guess Snarky is Republican and Apoplectic is a Democrat.

  3. Best tamales are those purchased off the Facebook Marketplace.

    1. No, the best tamales are those you make yourself. I have yet to buy tamales that match the ones that I make. It’s a process, though. Takes hours to make proper tamales.

  4. Luckily I have an aunt that makes great jellies and jams. And her blue berry and black berry pies are wonderful.

    1. And have you ever told her, “Must be jelly ’cause jam don’t shake like that”?

  5. Does Wyoming have a specific law banning jams and jellies, or just a general law banning doing anything you haven’t been given explicit permission to do? I’ve seen Wyoming – it looks exactly like the sort of place that drunk sheepherders would walk 100 miles through a blizzard simply for the opportunity to stab a grizzly bear in the face with a dull pocket knife. Where did all the pantywaists come from and how do they manage to survive in Wyoming?

  6. OT.
    Just got a link to this, looked around the web and there’s near zero mention of it. It is OBE since Trump was acquitted, but as it a put-on? A false-flag to make the left look worse, or is it a real thing?

    “What the Heck: Leftists Have Discovered a Sure Way to Get Trump Convicted and Removed”
    […]
    “Starting on Monday, a group of anti-Trump protesters have announced that they intend to show up at the Hart Senate office building every day until he is convicted and removed.
    To advocate for his removal, they intend to walk around in circles until he’s gone, according to Julio Rosas of Townhall Media.
    Rosas asked this small group of what appeared to be about thirty people if they actually had jobs.
    She was wearing a “Trump is guilty” shirt, although it didn’t say guilty of what. Guilty of disturbing Democrats and those on the left by winning…”
    https://www.redstate.com/nick-arama/2020/01/07/what-the-heck-leftists-have-discovered-a-sure-way.-to-get-trump-convicted-and-removed

  7. To advocate for his removal, they intend to walk around in circles until he’s gone, according to Julio Rosas of Townhall Media.

    See now, if they had said they intend to stagger around in circles, it would have crossed the line into clear parody but since they left it at “walk” it leaves you guessing as to whether or not it’s a joke.

    1. Walk around in circles? Like around the walls of Jericho?

      1. Hell if I know; is it a spoof?

    2. It reads a lot like something Douglas Adams would’ve written.

      Unfortunately that doesn’t do much to clear up whether it’s a joke or whether it’s something leftists actually intend on doing.

  8. Think of food freedom laws as beefed-up cottage food laws—which are on the books in every state but New Jersey.

    We can’t even pump our own gas here, and you think they’re going to let us sell home-baked cookies?

  9. Raw Milk?

    Now is the time…free food today, tomorrow, forever!

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  11. “where the successful law has faced seemingly constant attacks from the state’s public-health regulators”

    — I’m sure it’s tough finding out that 90% of their jobs is a waste of time. Of course that should be a given since NO ONE was willing to pay them out of pocket and they had to FORCE people to pay for their waste of time. Now the government will go lobby the government to steal from unwilling taxpayers their useless job salaries.

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  13. Homemade food sold in a restaurant?
    Hmm. Go figure.

  14. While I certainly don’t oppose these amendments, they seem really picayune. How many people who don’t have a commercial kitchen are going to want to make a little money by selling (or exposure by giving away) their home cooking to a grocery or restaurant and would find willing outlets for such sales? Must be a really rare situation. In most cases the law’s existing exceptions for such things as flea markets, farmer’s markets, bake sales, or direct-to-consumer would apply in states that don’t have the severest laws and regulations (as New York does, for instance, requiring Bruce Merbaum to rent a commercial kitchen for his tahini crunch cookies to sell to a few boutique outlets and direct consumer sales by mail). I’m afraid the low hanging fruit has already been picked in this field and turned into preserves; it’s the severely regulated states, not the ones that are already pretty good, where reforms are needed.

    1. I know someone who does. They had to get a commercial kitchen license from the state. They do high end bakery goods. They don’t really do it for the money. More like a hobby.

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