Freemont Foods LLC in Riverton, WY, has already won, but the raw milk loophole it has opened up is likely to become a permanent fix to Wyoming’s Food Freedom Act when the Cowboy Legislature meets in Cheyenne next month.
The Wyoming Food Freedom Act of 2015 has only seen amendments once in the past seven years. That was in 2017. Sen. Tim Salazar, R-Riverton, has some more Food Freedom Act clarifying language for the Wyoming Legislature to consider next month.
It stems from the experience Freemont Foods LLC has had recently with the Wyoming Department of Agriculture. In business as a “perpetual farmer’s market,” Freemont Foods’ practices were all approved by the state agricultural officials if only after some head-scratching.
The main question the state had to ponder was whether money left for raw milk in a pail counts as a direct sale to the consumer by the dairy farmer as required by the Food Freedom Act. Freemont Foods rents space to raw milk providers who use a milk pail to collect payments.
Under the Food Freedom Act, food products that are not shelf-stable must be sold directly to the consumer. No third party can conduct the transition. That means Freemont Foods cannot collect money for raw milk sold by its tenant dairy farmers.
That caused Wyoming dairy farmers Tim and Bobbie Thornberg to use the milk money pail. Since the Thornbergs cannot be at Freemont Foods all the time, they came up with having their customers drop money into the pail next to the refrigerator where the raw milk they produce is held until sold.
The honor system won state approval.
“Venmo, scheduled pick-up dates, and the honor pail are all options we discussed with the producer,” Wyoming’s Derek Grant said. The state Agriculture Department’s public information officer said the payment option is up to the producer’s discretion.
When the Wyoming Legislature meets in Cheyenne in January, Salazar will offer language amending the Food Freedom Act to give milk pail collections the force of law. “This is an issue also of just small business development, small business growth,” Salazar told those attending his recent town hall event. “My belief is that it will receive widespread support in the Legislature.”
Salazar says his intent is to keep everybody on the same page when it comes to the Act.
The Wyoming Food Freedom Act permits consumers to purchase processed produce, poultry, raw milk, and eggs from state farms and ranches without much regulation for such “farm-to-table” foods.
It passed as House Bill 0056 in 2015 and was codified as W.S. 11- 49-101 through 11-49-103, effective March 3, 2015, and amended on July 1, 2017. The general purpose of the Wyoming Food Freedom Act (WFFA) is to allow for the sale and consumption of homemade foods.
The Wyoming Department of Agriculture has provided the following answers to these frequently asked questions about the WFFA.
Q. Where can the producer sell their food?
A. A sale may occur at farmer’s markets, ranches, farms, and producers’ homes. Sales may not occur within commercial food establishments as defined in W.S. 35-7-110(a)(xxxi).
Q. What is an “informed end consumer?”
A. An “informed end consumer” is a person who is the last to purchase any product, who does not resell the product, and who has been informed that the product is not licensed, regulated, or inspected.
Q. What is a “farmers market?”
A. A “farmers market” is a shared facility or area where several vendors may gather on a regular, recurring basis to sell a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, locally grown farm products, and other items directly to consumers.
Q. Are farmer’s markets subject to inspection for compliance with federal, state, or local food safety regulations?
Q. Is one vendor a farmers market?
Q. Are roadside stands allowed under the Food Freedom Act?
A. The Food Freedom Act does not specifically prohibit roadside stands.
Q. What is “homemade” food?
A. “Homemade” means food is food that is prepared or processed in a private home kitchen that is not licensed, inspected, or regulated.
Q. What types of homemade foods may be sold under the WFFA?
A. Produce and home-processed foods that are processed without meat or wild game. Except as provided by the act.
Q. Can poultry and poultry products be sold under this act?
A. Yes, so long as poultry producers maintain compliance with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Poultry Products Inspection Act. A producer must slaughter less than 1,000 poultry during a calendar year; not engage in buying or selling poultry products other than those produced from poultry of his own raising, and only sell such poultry and poultry products within the State of Wyoming. The poultry is not adulterated or misbranded.
Q. Does this Act allow the sale of raw milk and products made from raw milk?
Q. Are WFFA products allowed in commercial food establishments?
A. No, except for raw, unprocessed fruit and vegetables. Food shall not be sold or used in any commercial food establishment unless the food has been labeled, licensed, packaged, regulated, or inspected as required by law.
Q. Can meat such as beef, pork, lamb, or goat be sold under this act?
A. No. Meat and meat products must be slaughtered, processed, and labeled in a Wyoming state or federally inspected meat plant.
Q. Can a producer sell a live animal intended for slaughter?
A. Yes, but a producer must still comply with the Wyoming Livestock Board’s statutes, rules, and regulations regarding a change in ownership.
Q. Can the sale of custom portions of live animals for future delivery be made at a farmers market, farm, ranch, home, office or any location agreed to between the producer and the informed end consumer?
A. Yes, provided that the processing of the portion of the animal is done by a Wyoming or federally inspected and licensed processing facility. Change in ownership of the animal (or portion thereof) must take place before the animal is slaughtered. The product must be labeled “not for sale” and can only be delivered to the person(s) who bought the animal. Producers must still comply with the Wyoming Livestock Board’s statutes, rules, and regulations regarding a change in ownership.
Q. Can wild game and game products be sold under this act?
A. No. W.S. 23-3-302 prohibits the sale or barter of wild game, animals, birds, or fish.
Q. Can any of the products be shipped interstate?
A. No. Transactions under this Act shall only occur in Wyoming.
Q. Can out-of-state producers sell in Wyoming under the WFFA? A. No. WFFA transactions shall not involve interstate commerce.
Q. Can a person cater out of their home under this act?
A. Under the Act, a producer may only cater to a private home.
Q. Can a producer prepare food onsite at the farmers market?
A. No, this becomes a temporary food stand and must be licensed through state inspection and use only food obtained in accordance with federal and state food safety laws. The only exemption to this is for a person to cook a product prepared in a home kitchen and give it out as samples at the farmers market.
Q. Can a home producer do internet sales under this Act?
A. Yes, but only for delivery within Wyoming.
Q. Do ungraded eggs still have to meet the requirements of the Wyoming Food Rule?
A. Yes, but the Wyoming Food Rule already allowed sales of ungraded eggs consistent with existing USDA Federal Regulations and exemptions. Sales of ungraded eggs were and remain legal. Eggs must be clean and refrigerated. If desired, clean cartons in good condition may be reused if all labeling from original use is marked out. The carton should be labeled with the name and address of the producer, packaging date, and state “ungraded” and “keep refrigerated.”
Q. Does the Act permit the Wyoming Department of Health to investigate any food-borne illnesses?
Q. Could a producer potentially face liability if an illness occurs as a result of their WFFA product? A. Potentially yes, this is a question that should be further directed to personal attorneys.
Q. Can food items be frozen then taken to the Farmer’s Market and sold as a frozen product?
A. Yes. It is recommended the items be kept frozen through the sale to the informed end consumer.
Q. How can fish be sold at the Farmer’s Market?
A. The sale of farm-raised fish provided: the fish is raised in accordance with Title 23 of the Wyoming Statutes. This is in reference to the Wyoming Game and Fish statutes. As noted in question number 15 above, wild fish cannot be sold at a farmer’s market under the Wyoming Food Freedom Act. Catfish is not allowed as it falls under the USDA Meat Inspection Act. Any other fish would be considered food and would be able to be sold at a farmer’s market. It is recommended the fish that is sold be maintained at proper temperatures.
Q. What are the requirements on how to inform the end consumer?
A. The Wyoming Food Freedom Act does not state how the producer shall inform the end consumer just that they shall inform the end consumer that any food product or food sold at a farmers market or through the ranch, farm, or home-based sales pursuant to this section (of the Act) is not certified, labeled, licensed, packaged, regulated or inspected. Failure to notify consumers means you are no longer operating under the WFFA and will be regulated pursuant to the standard Wyoming food safety requirements for licensure and compliance with the Wyoming Food Safety Rule.
Q. Is a sampling license required for giving out samples of WFFA products?
Q. Is the sale of rabbit meat allowed?
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