As early as next week, the New Hampshire House of Representatives will likely be deciding whether the “Live Free or Die” state should allow unlicensed “homestead” food and on-farm sales of raw milk.
The quick action has left state regulators scrambling to get ahead of lawmakers who seem bent on removing government oversight of the sale of homemade food.
The proposals are the latest tracks added to New Hampshire’s burgeoning “food freedom” philosophy, which is encapsulated in Bill (HB) 1650. One tenet of the food freedom movement is that food produced in New Hampshire for in-state consumption should be free of federal regulation.
The measure sailed out of the House Environment and Agriculture Committee on a 13-0 vote, earning a place on the House Consent Calendar that could bring it up for floor debate as early as February 15.
HB 1402, eliminating license requirements for so-called homestead food and allowing on-farm sales of raw milk products, may get to the floor almost as quickly.
New Hampshire currently allows the sale of non-potentially hazardous foods from licensed home kitchens, a practice being depicted by the bill’s sponsors as “overregulation.”
In a top-to-bottom rewrite, HB 1402 now calls for exempting home-based operations with annual sales of $10,000 or less and excluding potentially hazardous food from license requirements.
Potentially hazardous foods, including acidified and low-acid canned foods, are those requiring temperate controls because they are “capable of supporting the rapid growth of pathogenic or toxigenic microorganisms” such as Clostridium botulinum (botulism).
Home and roadside sales and transactions at farmers’ markets are all permitted under the new HB 1402 language.
Raw milk dairies producing 20 or fewer gallons a day could also sell their products without licenses. In addition to raw milk, the dairies could sell cheese aged at least 60 days, yogurt, cream, butter or kefir without a milk producer-distributor license.
Both raw milk and homestead food would be required to meet they labeling requirements outlined in HB 1402, saying they are products exempt from New Hampshire licensing and public health inspection.
With 400 members, the New Hampshire House is the largest state legislative body in the U.S. Republicans, with 295-to-105 majority, currently control it.
The food freedom debate that is scheduled for the floor of the NH House next week will allow lawmakers to vent about whether federal officials and their contractors should be jailed if they attempt to regulate food produced only for in-state consumption.
New Hampshire lawmakers, like others, cite the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which reserves power to the state, as underpinnings for the proposed law.
Many constitutional experts, however, say federal law and regulations are always in a superior position to state actions, making such food freedom laws meaningless. Lawyers for the Utah Legislature have said if a similar law in that state is approved, it likely will be ruled unconstitutional.