Locally grown and artisanal foods and beverages were front and center on the minds of state legislators during the 83rd legislative session. Not only did a number of bills get passed that will provide greater freedoms and support for local farmers and food producers, but the state’s craft brewers and distillers also got an economic boost from several bills of their own.
Achievements at a glance:
Craft-beer bills, which took effect June 14, 2013
Senate Bill (S.B.) 515: For the first time, brewpubs can now sell their products off-site thanks to this bill, whereas previously, their products could only be consumed on premises. It also raises their manufacturing limit from 5,000 to 10,000 barrels a year, and allows them to sell their products to wholesale distributors for resale. In addition, up to 1,000 barrels of that limit can now be sold directly to retailers.
S.B. 516: Previously, brewers who brewed less than 75,000 barrels per year were allowed to distribute any of that amount to retailers, but those who brewed more than that had to go through a distributor exclusively. With the passage of this bill, however, if a brewer manufactures less than 125,000 barrels per year, they may obtain a distribution permit, which allows them to sell up to 40,000 of those barrels to retailers directly (starting January 1, 2014).
S.B. 517: The same rules as S.B. 516, but it applies to manufacturers of ales, whose product contains alcohol levels of greater than 4 percent.
S.B. 518: For the first time, small breweries can sell up to 5,000 barrels per year to consumers on-site, as long as they produce less than 225,000 barrels per year and meet certain other conditions.
Charles Vallhonrat, the executive director of the Texas Craft Brewers Guild, says these new bills are important for the future of craft beer in Texas. “Economically, we really wanted to push these bills through to be able to grow an industry that’s booming nationwide,” he says. “It’s doing well in Texas, but we wanted to take some of the handcuffs off.”
"This is an exciting time for Texas craft distilleries. Craft distillers will be given more opportunities to grow and promote their unique spirits. This will allow our local distilleries to be increasingly recognized across the United States."
-Scott Steward, executive director of the Texas Distilled Spirits Association
Craft-distillery bills, which took effect Sept. 1, 2013
S.B. 828: Sets up a distiller’s agent permit, which authorizes an agent to act on behalf of distillers to conduct samplings at retail stores and to take orders from wholesale distributors.
S.B. 642: Allows distillers to sell their product in bulk to food producers who manufacture their foods using spirits as an ingredient.
S.B. 652: Allows distillers to buy bulk alcohol products from other manufacturers for manufacturing purposes.
S.B. 905: Allows distillers to sell up to 3,000 gallons per year of their spirits for on-site consumption. They also may sell up to 3,500 gallons of their spirits per year for off-site consumption, as long the spirits are packaged in unopened bottles no larger than 750 milliliters, with commemorative labels, and are sold and limited to two per customer in a 30-day period, among other requirements.
"It's a major achievement to get three bills through the Texas Legislature. There is strong bipartisan interest in what's going on with the local foods movement."
-Judith McGeary, executive director of tge Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance
Local food bills, which took effect September 1, 2013
House Bill (H.B.) 970: Picks up on Senate Bill 81, which passed in 2011 and allowed home-based production of baked goods and a few other foods not requiring refrigeration, as long as they were sold on-site and did not amount to more than $50,000 per year in sales. In response, various municipalities used zoning ordinances to ban these home-based operations. Therefore, H.B. 970 prohibited zoning ordinances from being used for this purpose, while also expanding the list of permissible foods and adding several new safety requirements. The law also allows these foods to be sold both on-site as well as at other specified off-site locations, such as farmers markets and food festivals.
H.B. 1382: Allows farm-stand operators and vendors at farmers markets to provide samples to their customers, as long as the items are prepared and served in a way that meets certain safety requirements. The bill also allows cooking demonstrations at farmers markets and waives permitting fees for them as long as they are for bona fide educational purposes and meet certain other requirements.
H.B. 1392: Requires the Department of State Health Services to provide information to farmers and food producers about what they are legally required to do within 30 days of receiving a written information request. —Nicole Lessin