Montana currently has a very simple exemption that allows for the sale of baked goods, preserves, and honey at farmers markets only.
A new cottage food bill (HB 478) will become law on October 1, 2015. This new law will be a major leap forward for Montana, allowing all forms of direct sales within the state and expanding the allowed foods list to include all non-potentially hazardous foods. Cottage food operators will be required to register with the health department for a fee (still undetermined), unless they only want to sell at farmers markets.
Montana’s path to a cottage food law was unlike any other state. In 2013, they passed a bill (HB 630) that required the relevant departments to study the current food situation in the state, compare it to common standards, and make recommendations for improvement. The study was published in May 2014 and heavily focused on the development of a cottage food law, with very specific recommendations about how that law would be implemented. In 2015, a new bill was drafted which followed those recommendations very closely, and the bill had no trouble passing through the legislature and being signed into law.
The result of this approach is that the new law is extremely well-thought out. With input from all sides, it addresses almost every point that a cottage food law should cover, and yet, it avoids being overly restrictive. Although it’s a big improvement over what they have, it’s still missing a lot of allowances found in many other cottage food laws, like indirect and/or online sales.
Home canned vegetables or pickled items are not allowed.
Operators can also sell hot coffee and hot tea (without fresh milk or cream) at a farmers market.