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cottage food community


Montana’s new cottage food bill (HB 478) went into effect on October 1, 2015. This law is a major leap forward, allowing all forms of in-person sales within the state. Prior to this cottage food law, Montana only allowed some types of homemade goods to be sold at farmers markets.

Cottage food operators need to register with their local health department for a $40 fee, unless they only want to sell at farmers markets. However, the application is very extensive, requiring detailed plans for all products and processes. Fortunately, many types of food are allowed and there is no sales limit.

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. Montana’s cottage food law now follows those recommendations very closely.


If you only sell at farmers markets, you do not need to register as a cottage food operation.

If you are selling at venues other than a farmers market, you need to have your certificate of registration on-hand, in case a health authority asks for it.

Allowed Foods

Prohibited Foods

More information about allowed foods can be found in Cottage Food Rule III. Other non-potentially hazardous items may be allowed on a case-by-case basis. Contact your local health authority to determine if your product is allowed.

Only certain types of jams, jellies, preserves, fruit butters, and dried fruits are allowed. More details about those products can be found in the Recipes section of the permit application.

You can also sell hot coffee and hot tea (without fresh milk or cream) at a farmers market.

Contact the Department of Livestock if you want to sell pet food or animal feed.

Only "non-potentially hazardous" foods are allowed, but certain non-PHFs may not be allowed. Most foods that don't need to be refrigerated (foods without meat, cheese, etc.) are considered non-potentially hazardous. Learn more


There is no sales limit



To register, you need to submit a permit application to your local environmental health department, which costs $40. Registration does not need to be renewed, but you must re-register if you add/change products or move to a different home. Registration is not required if you only sell at farmers markets.

The application is very lengthy, requiring many detailed plans:

  1. Recipes
    • Includes all variations of recipes you’ll use, along with ingredient lists, measurement amounts, and directions
  2. Production Process
    • Includes all processing steps you take, along with equipment you use, that aren’t included in your recipes or packaging
  3. Packaging
    • Includes all packaging you use and how you package your products
  4. Labels
    • Includes a copy of a label for each recipe
  5. Cleaning Process
    • Includes when and how equipment and surfaces are cleaned, along with how you prevent allergen contamination

Other registration requirements can be found in Cottage Food Rule IX.

If your application is approved, you will receive a certificate of registration, which you must keep with you while selling to the public.

Water Testing

If your home uses a private well or non-public water source, it must be tested by a certified laboratory to prove that the water is safe.


Sample Label

Chocolate Chip Cookies

"Made in a home kitchen that is not subject to retail food establishment regulations or inspections"

Forrager Cookie Company

123 Chewy Way, Cookietown, MT 73531

Ingredients: enriched flour (wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), butter (cream, salt), semi-sweet chocolate (sugar, chocolate, cocoa butter, milkfat, soy lecithin, natural flavors), brown sugar, granulated sugar, eggs, vanilla extract (vanilla bean extract, alcohol, sugar), baking soda, salt (salt, calcium silicate)

Contains: milk, eggs, wheat, soy

NET WT 2 lb 4 oz (1.02 kg)

If a nutritional claim is made (e.g. “low fat”), a nutrition facts panel must be included on the label.

More labeling guidelines can be found in the Labeling section of the permit application, as well as Cottage Food Rule IV.


Food and equipment may only be stored in the registered area of your home.

There are many workplace and hygiene requirements listed in Cottage Food Rules V, VI, VII, and VIII.


Public Health & Human Services
Law Dates
October 2015
HB 478
This page was last updated on


I just submitted my application! It was extensive. it took me four days to get labels and recipes together. I’m a gluten and dairy free baker in Helena, I have a separate kitchen in my home for my baking business, but could only offer my goodies at the Saturday market. I’m so excited that I can bake during the week now. I bake for people with celiac and dairy allergies and I have celiac disease myself so this is a dream come true for me and I know a lot of my customers are excited too.

    Congratulations! You’ll likely be one of the first CFOs registered under this law. If you have any tips for future CFOs, please share.

    Once I get approved I will let you all know. Not sure if I did everything correctly. I sure hope I did because it was a lot of work. I submitted over 60 recipes which are gluten and dairy free and some egg free.

This is disappointing news to the minority of us who went to the time and expense to build/rent a seperate commercial/professional facility so we could own and operate a legitimate and legal food business. I wonder if the state will reimburse me the tens of thousands of dollars it cost for me to originally meet their previous requirements!!!

    I hear you. A lot of existing business owners express disappointment about cottage food laws, because it’s like, “I wish these were around when I started.” But those same tens of thousands of dollars are preventing people from starting food businesses, and I think you can see that it’s not really ideal. Fortunately, cottage food laws typically don’t affect existing food businesses because they are so limited. You can do so much more than a CFO can, not to mention having a head start and a customer base.

    My previous comment was made in the context of owning/operating a commercial custom cake business. I’m all for people getting a head start and customer base if they operate within the rules of the cottage food laws. Unfortunately, in our line of business it is all to often that we compete with unlicensed operations/individuals offering the same services and products we provide with no regard whatsoever for the regulations. I wish all the best to those enterprising individuals who use this as springboard to build a good business within the confines of the regulations. For those who operate outside the regulations, I suggest they do some research on the liabilities/penalties associated with public health violations. The goods they are selling may cost them their livelihoods and much more if they are found negligent in a public health lawsuit.

    I understand and I’m sure it’s very frustrating. I have noticed that, with or without a cottage food law, illegal operations are very common. In fact, I’d say that, if anything, a cottage food law makes people a little more likely to try to stay legal (and thereby become more restricted). Part of the problem, I suppose, is that I haven’t noticed there being any major repercussions for illegal bakers: the health dept might give them a warning and tell them to stop — maybe. I personally think that the major problem is that the current laws are way too overbearing for small businesses. There are many hoops you have had to go through that just aren’t necessary for ensuring the safety of your products.

Thanks for the coverage of my bills in both 2013 and 2015. If any of your readers are interested in the implementation of the (expanded) Cottage Food law in Montana, the rules are being drafted and there will be a hearing on August 25th in Helena. Contact MT DPHHS for more info.

If you read the law, honey is now allowed. It was also allowed in a law passed earlier that went in to effect as soon as the governor signed the bill, something like SB37. Honey is allowed in both bills as of this year, but not last year.

    I know that it will be allowed in the new law that’s taking effect on October 1st, but I’m not familiar with another bill that’s already taken effect. SB 37 was about water rights… could you point me toward the bill you’re referring to?

You site is somwhat incorrect in that Montana has, by State Law, allowed the sale of home baked goods and jams and jellies at Farmers Markets for more than 35 years. MCA 50-50-202 (3) (b) “A license is not required of a person selling baked goods or preserves at a farmer’s market.” See the link for more information:

I am a Sanitarian for Missoula County in Montana and have been for 38 years. We have been allowing the sale of these “cottage foods’ at Farmers Markets for a very long time.

    Thanks so much for sharing this, Jim. Sometimes it’s difficult to dig up this info online or find it in a law, so I’m really glad you directed me to it. I’m sure it will be helpful to many people.

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