Case Closed: Minnesotans Win Right to Sell Homemade Goods; Agree to Dismiss Lawsuit

J. Justin Wilson
J. Justin Wilson · June 16, 2015

St. Paul, Minn.—Two home bakers are celebrating victory today, following Governor Mark Dayton’s signature on a bill removing the arbitrary restrictions on the sale of homemade baked and canned goods. As a result, Jane Astramecki and Mara Heck today dismissed their lawsuit, which challenged the arbitrary restrictions as unconstitutional.

“People want to be able to make the decision to buy natural, preservative-free, homemade products,” said Astramecki. “It should be up to ordinary Minnesotans, not the government, to decide what foods to buy for themselves and their families.”

Both Astramecki and Heck are home-based entrepreneurs who make delicious goods, including cakes, cookies and jams. Until the new bill was signed, the state restricted the sale of such goods to only $5,000 annually—or just $96 per week. Even then, the law only allowed the goods to be sold at community events and farmers’ markets. Violators were subject to fines and even jail time. So Astramecki and Heck partnered with the Institute for Justice and sued the state in November 2013, challenging the arbitrary rules as a violation of their constitutional right to earn an honest living.

A state trial court dismissed the lawsuit last summer, but the Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed that decision and reinstated the claims in May 2015. The court explained that it was “particularly concerned with the lack of evidence in the record at this stage of the proceedings that shows how the venue and sales-cap restrictions are genuine or relevant to” the state’s alleged public health concerns with the goods.

“These foods are inherently safe,” said Institute for Justice Attorney Erica Smith. “The government can’t arbitrarily restrict where or how much inherently safe food is sold.”

On Saturday, the state legislature passed a new “cottage food” law as part of the omnibus agriculture bill. The new law allows home food makers to annually sell up to $18,000 of not potentially hazardous foods as long as the home food makers register with the state, accurately label their goods and spend a few hours taking a safety course. They can also sell directly to consumers, either in person or on the Internet, in addition to selling at farmers’ markets and community events.

The Institute for Justice’s challenge to Minnesota’s arbitrary restrictions on home bakers is part of its National Food Freedom Initiative: an ongoing, nationwide campaign that brings property rights, economic liberty and free speech challenges to laws that interfere with the ability of Americans to produce, market, procure and consume the foods of their choice.