Raw Butter Ban Before U.S. Appellate CourtApril 7, 2022
2022 State Legislature Recap (US)August 1, 2022
On July 1st Senate Bill 693 (SB 693), also known as the Tennessee Food Freedom Act, went into effect as law. SB 693 is a major step in expanding consumer access to homemade food in Tennessee and keeping more of the food dollar in the state. State Senator Frank Niceley sponsored the bill; Representative Justin Lafferty was the sponsor of companion legislation House Bill 813 (HB 813).
SB 693 allows the unregulated sale of all food that does not require time or temperature control for safety (including fermented foods) by homemade food producers direct to the consumer or “a third-party vendor, such as a retail shop or grocery store.” Sales can be made to the consumer remotely through telephone or internet order. Deliveries of homemade food can be made through third-party carriers; all transactions under SB 693 must be in intrastate commerce only.
The production and sale of homemade foods is exempt from all “licensing, permitting, inspection, packaging…laws of this state, except when the department of health is investigating a reported foodborne illness.” The only requirement under the bill is the disclosure through labeling or other communication (depending on the food sold and the type of transaction) of the following information: the producer’s contact information, the name of the food item, its ingredients, and the statement: “This product was produced at a private residence that is exempt from state licensing and inspection.”
Prior law allowed the sale of “not potentially hazardous” foods (mostly the same foods that can be sold under SB 693) by the producer without a permit directly to the consumer only; further, the producer was subject to inspection and other requirements under the old law. The deregulation of the production and sales of homemade foods along with the now legal third-party sales of these items should increase the number of homemade food producers as well as consumer access substantially. Food buyers clubs, food hubs, and mom-and-pop stores are all possible venues for the sales of homemade food
Niceley has made a huge impact on the fortunes of small farmers in Tennessee. In 2009 he was the sponsor of a bill legalizing the distribution of raw milk through cowshare agreements; he followed up on that success in 2012 by getting an Attorney General’s opinion that it was legal to distribute other raw dairy products through a cowshare arrangement as well. In 2019 he sponsored a successful bill legalizing the retail sale of raw butter by licensed dairies.
In 2014 Niceley sponsored a bill adopting the federal poultry exemption enabling farmers to process up to 20,000 birds a year; the state has since expanded that exemption by policy to include rabbit processing on the farm. In 2017 he sponsored a bill adopting the federal exemptions on custom slaughter and on non-amenable species—the latter exemption allows the sale of meat from animals such as bison and domestically raised deer that are slaughtered and processed at a custom facility. That same year he also sponsored a bill that exempted from licensing and inspection food buyers club and other entities that distribute the products of farmers.
A fifth-generation cattle farmer himself, Niceley is largely responsible for Tennessee having one of the strongest local food systems in the country. He is the legislator small farmers across the state most turn to when they have a regulatory issue.
With the looming engineered shortages in the conventional food supply, it is critical to deregulate the production and sale of locally produced foods. Shortening the supply chains and enabling communities to be more self-sufficient in food production is a way to fight back against corporate tyranny and the threat of food scarcity. All 50 states have Cottage Food laws, with some states such as Wyoming and Montana allowing the unregulated sale of nearly all foods other than meat; illnesses attributed to producers operating under cottage food and food freedom laws are almost nonexistent. States like Tennessee and laws like its Food Freedom Act can be a model going forward for deregulation in other states.
Congratulations to Senator Niceley, Representative Justin Lafferty, Weston A. Price Foundation chapter leader and lobbyist Shawn Day, and others who worked in support of the bill for their success!
Photo Credit: Andrey Krav via iStock.com