Following Texas' success, lawmakers urged to reform licensing laws


Laws governing the sale of homemade goods vary from state to state, from light touch restrictions to outright bans.   File photo

More than 1,000 home-based food businesses have been created since cottage industry laws were loosened in Texas, and this should be a template for changes to the state’s occupational licensing laws, free market advocates argue.

Laws governing the sale of home-baked foods and other goods, or cottage food operations, were loosened in 2013, allowing individuals to sell at farmers markets and other events. It was a huge step forward, according to to pushing for less restrictions, and its success should spur lawmakers to tackle occupational licensing laws.

“We see what happened several years ago when lawmakers lifted occupational licensing restrictions on home-baked good in Texas,” said Jerome Greener, state director for Americans For Prosperity (AFP), the free market advocacy organization.

“Now more than 1,000 home-based food businesses have been created in our state," Greener told Texas Business Daily. "Eliminating this occupational licensing restriction demonstrated that when needless regulations are lifted, opportunities are created in our economy.”

He said the state economy would “benefit greatly from changes in occupational licensing laws, particularly with regards to statewide liquor store regulations and ride-sharing laws in cities including Austin, Galveston and Corpus Christi.

“Government shouldn’t be picking winners and losers in our economy by restricting access to certain individuals based on laws put in place to protect the existing members of a particular industry,” Greener said.

Laws governing the sale of homemade goods vary from state to state, from light touch restrictions to outright bans in New Jersey and Wisconsin.

In an op-ed piece published in the Wall Street Journal, the AFP’s New Jersey state director, Erica Jedynak, and Heather Russinko, who wants to sell her home baked goods, argued for New Jersey to lift its ban. State law forbids the sale of homemade baked goods. Bakers can work legally only in industrial kitchens, which cost upward of $15,000.

Russinko, to help cover her bills, wanted to make some extra money and start a college fund for her son. That’s when she learned about the ban. The authors said they “have talked to hundreds of New Jerseyans who want to supplement their income by selling a batch of grandma’s famous cookies.”

Many representatives support lifting the ban, but legislation has foundered in the New Jersey Senate, largely because of the opposition of Sen. Joseph Vitale, chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee, according to the authors of the WSJ op-ed.

Texas passed an amendment, HB970 in 2013, which greatly loosened the restrictions of their original cottage food law. The biggest change with the amendment is that cottage food operations can sell outside of their homes, such as at farmers markets or other events, according to forrager.com, a home-based sales information and advocacy site.

“Indirect sales to retail stores are still not allowed, but it is a huge step of progress,” the site’s authors said.

Texas also now has a large number of foods that are allowed to be made from home, but the sales limit per year is still $50,000. Although no licenses are required, cottage food operations need to take a food handler’s training course, forrager.com noted.

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