UPDATE: The governor signed the Texas Cottage Food Bill into law on June 17. Starting in September 2011, home bakers, canners and farmers will get an exemption from regulations required that food sold to the public must be produced in a certified commercial kitchen. The new bill will not allow home cooks and farmers to sell their prepared foods on the internet or at Farmers Markets, however. Sales of such products must be direct to the consumer and not exceed $50,000 a year. Here are the rules.
In a Houston Press story titled “Come and Bake It!” back in February, we considered the Texas Cottage Food Bill, a change in health department regulations that would allow home bakers and small farmers an exemption to sell cookies, cakes, jams and jellies and other low-risk prepared foods direct to the public.
Illegal home bakers who supported the new law used a Facebook page titled “Texas Baker’s Bill” as a gathering point. The freedom fighters chose a version of the Gonzales “Come and Take It” flag as their logo, substituting a slice of cake for the cannon and changing the words to “Come and Bake It.”
After a town hall meeting with chefs and urban farmers in October 2010, State Representative Eddie Rodriguez (D – Austin) introduced several bills to support Local Food. Along with the Texas Cottage Food Bill, he also introduced another piece of legislation streamlining regulation of Farmers Markets that also passed in this session. And in a Local Food trifecta, Representative Boris Miles (D-Houston) won support of a bill to promote urban farming. Legislation legalizing “raw milk” sales was defeated.
A Texas Cottage Food Bill was supported by a bipartisan alliance of urban Democrats championing Local Food and Republicans opposed to Big Government. Representative Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), the chairwoman of the House Public Health Committee, called it the “food freedom bill” and fought hard to get the legislation passed. The measure also had the support of rural representatives like Sid Miller (R-Stephenville) who sought help for small farmers.
So we will be counting on Texas food bloggers across the state to tell us where to find new roadside stands and home bakeries. Hopefully the law will be signed in time for peach canning season.