Revolutionary “Cottage Food” Law Proposed in Virginia
By Brad Jordan
Bill would exempt ALL homemade foods from regulation, including perishable foods
A proposed cottage-food law in Virginia attempts to go farther than any cottage-food law has gone before. If passed, it would exempt virtually all homemade – or small-farm-made – foods from regulation, provided the foods are sold directly from producer to consumer, in face-to-face transactions.
Cottage food laws typically exempt only non-perishable homemade goodies, like jams, jellies, cakes, cookies, candy and other novelty items that can be stored at room temperature. But the “Virginia Food Freedom Act” would exempt all homemade foods – including meat, dairy, partially cooked foods like chicken pot pie, and other foods requiring refrigeration – from licensing laws, health inspections, sales limitations and basically all government interference of any kind.
Small farmers with 10 or fewer employees would be included in the definition of homemade-food producers.
Delegate Robert Bell (R-Charlottesville), the chief spokesman and sponsor for the bill, says the only requirement would be for such products to be labeled “not inspected by the state.” And let’s be honest, that’s probably a good thing.
Free the market
By removing regulatory burdens on small farms and producers of homemade goods, food producers can quickly adapt to a changing market, giving customers what they need, without waiting for government to give them the permission to do so. The people of Virginia may finally have the option of being in charge of, and responsible for, their own food.
As opposed to GMO labeling laws, which force private businesses to do something against their will, this bill puts food producers at the mercy of their customers. It’s the customer’s choice and responsibility to determine what ingredients are in their food and how they are produced.
If the producers make a bad product or someone gets sick, then consumers simply can choose to go elsewhere or take them to court for damages. However, it’s not really in the best interest of local-food producers to make inferior products, because they’re answering directly to their customers, unlike the faceless farmers who work for mega-food processors like Tyson or Kraft or General Mills.
My new local farmer grows, processes and delivers her pasture-raised eggs, chicken, pork, beef and dairy herself, and informs customers of seasonal price fluctuations due to changes in the cost of her locally grown, locally milled, organic feed. Her standards for “organic” are higher than the USDA’s, and she proudly offers farm tours to demonstrate. She refuses to grow or raise food she wouldn’t feed her own child. Even her animal feed is of such high quality, she has no problem letting her young daughter snack on it. How many concentrated-animal-feeding-operation farmers can say that? How [many] Monsanto executives feel safe feeding their kids the foods they produce?
This is how I envision a true free-market operating – with no middlemen or government weighing people down. Both parties are free to engage in a mutually beneficial exchange. And if there’s a need not being met, the producer can quickly change how he operates in order to satisfy the demands of his customer.
We don’t need more food safety laws; we just need more small farms and more food freedom.
I’m tired of the mega-food producers hiding behind the cloak of food safety laws, licensing laws, zoning laws, patents and subsidies and a host of other government interventions that make us more dependent upon their services, rather than upon ourselves and our neighbors’ services.
If this law passes, it will make small farmers lives easier, strengthen communities and improve access to real, clean food. Stop worrying about health department ratings, GMO labeling, and the validity of USDA “organic” certifications. Certify it yourself, by going to the farm and talking to your farmer.