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2021 Cottage Food Bills

2021 is a fresh start in so many ways, but as always, a new year means a new round of cottage food bills!

And what a big round it is! Over one-third of states are actively working on improving their cottage food law this year.

I actually can’t remember a year when there were this many cottage food amendments on the table. It reminds me of nearly a decade ago, when states were busy creating their initial cottage food laws.

In all likelihood, the pandemic, and the resulting surge of interest in cottage foods, is part of the push to improve the laws in many states.

Cottage Food Law Improvements

First, we already have one bill that has become law, as well a victory in one state:

Arkansas – HB 1118

This bill improves AR’s cottage food law by allowing online sales. Interestingly, unlike almost all states, it specifically allows interstate sales, as long as a producer “complies with all federal regulations regarding food safety”. It not clear that that entails, or if shipping is allowed.

Lincoln, Nebraska – City Ordinance Passed

It’s not a cottage food bill, but it’s a big improvement for anyone who lives in NE’s second-largest city.

The city of Lincoln, NE has changed their ordinance to make it much easier to start a cottage food business. Honestly, it’s something they should have done when their improved cottage food law was passed in 2019.

This ordinance change was in response to a lawsuit from the Institute for Justice last year.

Cottage Food Bills

Remember, these are only bills, not laws. They have a long way to go before they become a law. Even if they do get passed into law, they might get altered significantly. This post was written on 3/10/2021.

Illinois – HB 2615

This aims to be a massive improvement to IL’s cottage food law.

Currently the law only allows sales at farmers markets, but it does allow a wide variety of foods. This bill would allow other direct sales venues, like events, online, and from home. It would also allow buttercream frosting.

IL has also had a law for home kitchen operations for over 6 years, but only a few counties allow it, and it’s pretty limited anyway. This bill would remove the HKO law and effectively replace it with something much better.

California – AB 1144

CA’s cottage food law hasn’t been amended in 8 years.

This bill would allow in-state shipping of cottage food products, raise the sales limit from $50k to $100k, and change the home address requirement on product labels.

It would also ease the process of getting a cottage food permit in some cities/counties by mitigating egregious fees, red tape, and the need to submit dozens of product labels to the health department.

Florida – SB 1294

This would be a significant improvement to FL’s cottage food law.

It would allow in-state shipping, increase the sales limit from $50k to $250k, and allow a cottage food operation to file as an LLC.

But just as importantly, this bill also would prevent a county from prohibiting CFOs, which fixes a big problem with the current law. Miami-Dade, which is the largest county in the state, currently doesn’t allow anyone in their county to start a cottage food business!

New Mexico – HB 177

Finally, a bill that would make NM’s cottage food law much more reasonable.

Currently, NM’s process for getting a cottage food permit is much more complicated than almost any other state. This bill would make it far easier to become a cottage food business.

Also, similar to FL, this bill would prevent a local government from prohibiting cottage food businesses. That’s because Albuquerque, NM’s largest city, currently doesn’t allow any cottage food businesses.

New Jersey – A 4580 / S73

New Jersey is still the only state with no form of a cottage food law.

This bill started in 2020, but it’s still in the works. They are hoping to significantly amend and improve it before moving it forward.

Let’s hope that 2021 is the year that NJ will finally get a cottage food law!

Alabama – SB 160

This would be a major improvement to AL’s cottage food law.

It would allow all nonperishable foods, instead of just baked goods, candy, jams/jellies, and herbs.

It would also allow online sales and in-state shipping, and it would change the home address requirement on product labels.

South Carolina – S 506

This would be a big change to SC’s cottage food law, by allowing the sale of all nonperishable foods, instead of just “candy and baked goods”.

It would also allow online sales, in-state shipping, and sales at retail/grocery stores.

And it would change the home address requirement on product labels.

Montana – SB 199

Montana is trying to follow in the footsteps of Wyoming, Utah, and North Dakota, by creating their own food freedom bill.

This would be a huge improvement to Montana’s cottage food law, which is far more limited and currently requires producers to complete a complex application to get a cottage food permit.

Washington – HB 1258

This is a major bill that would allow microenterprise home kitchen operations, similar to CA’s MEHKO law.

Basically, it would let people run mini-restaurants from home, with a lot of restrictions.

Like CA’s AB 626 in 2018, this bill is likely to stir up a lot of debate, and it will be interesting to see where it goes.

Minnesota – HF 1430

This would address the most pressing problems in MN’s cottage food law, by removing the $18k sales limit, and allowing cottage food businesses to file as an LLC. It would also change the home address requirement on labels.

Missouri – HB 357

A simple, but significant, update to MO’s cottage food law which allows online sales and removes the $50k sales limit.

Maryland – HB 889

A simple amendment to MD’s cottage food law by increasing the sales limit from $25k to $100k.

Other Cottage Food Efforts

Wisconsin – Lawsuit

Not a bill, but yet another lawsuit in WI to improve their allowance on what they can sell.

The lawsuit they won a few years ago allowed the sale of “baked goods”, but the ag department decided that baked goods only mean items made with flour as the primary ingredient!

So now they’re back at it, and this time, they’re trying to allow other nonperishable foods as well. It looks like going the legislative route simply isn’t a viable option in Wisconsin.

Mississippi – HB 562

Unfortunately, we already have the first bill casualty of the year. This bill already died in its session. It was an extremely simple bill intended to allow online sales.

Rhode Island

There’s no bill number yet, but there is an effort underway to improve Rhode Island’s cottage food law, which is currently the worst cottage food law in the nation (besides NJ, which doesn’t have a cottage food law), since it’s only accessible to farmers.

Massachusetts

There’s a significant effort in Massachusetts to improve their law, since Boston and some other municipalities don’t allow cottage food businesses.

At the very least, they are working on passing an ordinance to enable residential kitchens in Boston.

Conclusion

Whew, that’s a lot of cottage food bills!

In most recent years, usually about 6 states would update their cottage food law.

But with a whopping 18 states working on a cottage food reform this year, things are looking better than ever for the cottage food industry!

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