When the New Mexico House of Representatives considered the Homemade Food Act, HB 177 last week—a bill to make it easier for people to support their families by selling foods made in their home kitchen—several legislators touted the bill as an example of the system working. In a time when partisan politics are at their peak, the Act represents politics at its finest: Republican and Democratic sponsors working together to bring relief to its citizens during the pandemic. Reps. Zach Cook (R) and Marion Matthews (D) are the lead sponsors of the bill and the bill passed the House last week with only one vote against.
Now the bill is due to be considered on the Senate Floor. But because the session ends at noon tomorrow, supporters of the bill are hoping the Senate will have time to consider the bill before time runs out.
Selling homemade foods—like baked goods, jams, dried pastas, honey, and roasted coffee beans—is a common way for people in 49 states to support themselves, their families and their farms. During the pandemic, being able to make money from home is more important than ever. The problem is that New Mexico currently has the most restrictive homemade food law in the country of the states that allow cottage food sales. The only state with a more restrictive law is New Jersey, which bans sales completely.
Many would-be homemade food sellers have called the legislature to ask them to support the bill. One of them is Trish Ray from San Felipe Pueblo, who testified in support of the bill.
“Passing this bill means that I can legally sell baked goods to fellow New Mexicans and supplement my income,” Trish said. “As a single mother I am doing everything possible to save up for my son’s college tuition and a home-based bakery would help me get started towards that goal.”
The bill would fix three problems with New Mexico’s current law. First, the laws allow cottage food producers to sell only at farmers markets and roadside stands. That means that while a cottage food producer can sell bread at the market, she can’t deliver the exact same bread to her neighbor down the street. (Only four other states have this restrictive requirement). Secondly, before the baker can even sell the bread at the market, she needs to get a burdensome permit from the Environment Department that requires pages of paperwork and can require thousands of dollars in kitchen upgrades. Finally, Albuquerque bans the sale of cottage foods completely—one of the only cities in the nation to do so.
HB 177 would fix these problems by making three changes.
· Allow all sales directly to consumers, including from home and online;
· Remove the burdensome permit requirement for all areas under NMED’s jurisdiction and instead require sellers to obtain a food handler certificate and abide by basic safety standards;
· Make sales legal everywhere, including in Albuquerque.
There are no safety concerns with the bill. The bill applies only to the sale of shelf-stable foods like baked goods, jams, popcorn, and roasted coffee beans. Under the bill, sellers would also need to take a one-day online safety course and abide by safety standards.
The Senate is due to reconvene today at noon.