Tne Montana Local Food Choice Act is on the governor’s desk. It passed on the third and final readings in the House, 70-20, and the Senate, 32 to 18.  Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte will likely sign it, and it will immediately become law with his signature.

Sponsored by state Sen. Greg Hertz, R-Flathead Lake, the Food Choice Act was amended after its introduction Feb. 8 to avoid pitfalls that might have prevented its passage.

The state’s federally sanctioned meat inspection program is not touched. It means food produced under the “Choice Act” cannot include meat. Nor will the Act impact Montana’s general fund, except for some negligible new expenses for the state’s Livestock Department.

Montana’s adoption of the new food choice statute is the most thorough “Food Freedom” law passed by any state since Wyoming’s gained approval in 2015. Direct sales to consumers are economic development strategies for both states.

Here are some o the additional provisions being added to Montana law:

Section 1. Short title — purpose.
(1) This chapter may be cited as the “Montana Local Food Choice Act”.

(2) The purpose of this act is to allow for the sale and consumption of homemade food and food products and to encourage the expansion of agricultural sales by ranches, farms, and home-based producers and the accessibility of homemade food and food products to informed end consumers by:

  •  facilitating the purchase and consumption of fresh and local agricultural products;
  • enhancing the agricultural economy; and
  • providing Montana citizens with unimpeded access to healthy food from known sources.

Section 2. Definitions. For purposes of this chapter, the following definitions apply:

(1) “Deliver” means to transfer a product as a result of a transaction between a producer and an informed end consumer. The action may be performed by the producer or the producer’s designated agent at a farm, ranch, home, office, traditional community social event, or another location agreed to between the producer or agent and the informed end consumer.

(2) “Home consumption” means:

  •  the consumption of food or a food product in a private home; or the consumption of food or a food product from a private home.
  •  “Homemade” means food or a food product that is prepared in a private home and that is not licensed, permitted, certified, packaged, labeled, or inspected per any official regulations.
  •  “Informed end consumer” means a person who is the last person to purchase a product, does not resell the product, and has been informed that the product is not licensed, permitted, certified, packaged, labeled, or inspected per any official regulations.
  •  “Producer” means a person who harvests, produces, or prepares a product that may be consumed as homemade food or a homemade food product. The term includes a person operating a small dairy, as defined in 81-21-101.
  •  The term does not include the entities listed in [section 3(1)(c)].

 “Traditional community social event” means an event at which people gather as part of a community for the benefit of those gathering or for the benefit of the community, including but not limited to a:

  •  wedding;
  •  funeral;
  •  church or religious social;
  •  school event;
  •  farmer’s market;
  •  potluck;
  •  neighborhood gathering; or
  •  club meeting or social; or
  •  youth or adult outdoor club or sporting event.

“Transaction” means an exchange of buying and selling, including the transfer of a product by delivery.

Section 3. Exemptions from regulations — transactions — information required — exceptions.
(1) (a) A state agency or an agency of a political subdivision of the state may not require licensure, permitting, certification, packaging, labeling, or inspection that pertains to the preparation, serving, use, consumption, delivery, or storage of homemade food or a homemade food product under this chapter.

This chapter does not preclude an agency from providing assistance, consultation, or inspection requested by a producer.

  •  A producer as defined in this chapter is not:
  •  a retail food establishment, a cottage food operation, or a temporary food establishment, as each term is defined in 50-50-102;
  •  a wholesale food manufacturing establishment, as defined in 50-57-102; or
  •  a dairy or a manufactured dairy products plant, as defined in 81-22-101.

A producer is not subject to labeling, licensure, inspection, sanitation, or other requirements or standards of 30-12-301; Title 50, chapter 31; or Title 81, chapters 2, 9, 21, or 22, or 23.  Transactions pursuant to this chapter:

  •  must be directly between the producer and the informed end consumer;
  •  must be only for home consumption or consumption at a traditional community social event; and
  •  must occur only in this state and may not involve interstate commerce.
  •  Except as provided in subsection (7), a producer shall inform an end consumer that any homemade food or homemade food product sold through the ranch, farm, or home-based sales pursuant to this chapter has not been licensed, permitted, certified, packaged, labeled, or inspected per any official regulations.
  •  Except for raw, unprocessed fruit and vegetables, homemade food shall not be sold or used in a retail food establishment, as defined in 50-50-102, unless the food has been licensed, permitted, certified, packaged, labeled, and inspected as required by law.
  • Except as provided in subsection (6) and pursuant to [sections 1 through 3], a producer may donate homemade food or homemade food products to a traditional community social event.
  •  A producer may not donate milk to a traditional community social event.

 Meat or meat products sold pursuant to [sections 1 through 3] must be processed at a state-licensed or federally approved meat establishment that may not be used in the preparation of homemade food.

  •  Subsection (7)(a) does not apply to a producer, as defined in [section 2], who slaughters fewer than 1,000 poultry birds a year except that the producer is subject to the requirements of 9 CFR 381. The poultry or poultry products must not be adulterated or misbranded.

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