This year’s Texas legislative session brought plenty of good news for local food producers. Several notable food and beverage bills were signed into law this June, providing protections and beneficial expansions for farmers and culinary artisans.
Texas craft breweries are now on equal footing with those across the rest of the nation, thanks to the success of the Beer-to-Go Bill. Included as legislation within the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission Sunset Bill, this bill allows craft brewers to sell beer to go directly to customers from their breweries and taprooms, starting September 1. Years of work went into the passing of this bill, which resulted from the efforts of organizations like the Texas Craft Brewers Guild, formed by employees and owners of craft breweries around the state, and their political action committee, CraftPAC.
Other passed legislation allows farmers to take financial steps forward. Permit fees charged by local health departments for farmers market vendors are now significantly lower, thanks to SB 932. Previously, counties could charge upward of $175 per vendor per market, sometimes on a weekly or quarterly basis. Now the fee is capped at $100 annually for all markets within a jurisdiction, which could save farmers over $2,000 yearly, according to the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance.
Sampling at farmers markets is an essential way for farmers and producers to get their products out to potential customers, but the process for sampling in several jurisdictions can be burdensome due to excessive permitting and regulations. HB 1964 makes it easier by stripping sampling requirements down to the state’s basic standards, allowing local food producers to give out samples much more easily.
One major win for home-based food businesses is the expansion of cottage foods in SB 572. Previously, homemade food producers could only sell a specific list of foods at specific locations like farmers markets, and the only acidified canned food they could legally sell was pickled cucumbers. Now producers can sell through a variety of channels, including online, offer products made with any non-potentially hazardous food and sell all types of pickled foods. This will allow for the expansion and growth of cottage food businesses and make life easier for farmers, as they are now able to can, pickle and sell any of their excess produce.
There is still plenty of work to be done when it comes to supporting local food producers, but this year’s legislative session took several steps in the right direction. Thanks to all of you who reached out to your representatives to voice your support for these bills; it’s truly one of the best ways to back our local food scene!
For more information on food-related bills, visit farmandranchfreedom.org
By Darby Kendall • Photography courtesy of The Texas Craft Brewers Guild