Wednesday, February 16, 2011

WA state: "Cottage food operations"

Your help needed

The Washington state legislature is working on a bill that I think is interesting.  From my read it would allow the production of some types of food (primarily things like bread and jam) in residential kitchens for on-premises sale. 

It appears to be aimed at allowing people to produce food for resale without having to either rent an inspected kitchen, or bring their residential kitchen up to inspected kitchen standards,  which can be expensive either way. 

There are various items in the bill about packaging and labeling the food, but the biggest limitation that I see is that the total gross yearly sales is capped at $15k/year.  An early draft had an even lower limit, at 5k a year. 

For most small businesses, gross sales of $1,250/month (that's what $15k a year is...) means that there's just not enough dollar volume to even be a part-time job.

If you had a gross sales limit of $15k A MONTH there's enough dollar volume there to be able to make a modest living, and if I have any problem with this bill, it's this.  I'd like to see the dollar limit substantially raised.

At $15k a month gross sales, you'd have enough revenue  to be able to make a modest living off the business (remember, all of this food has to be prepared, packaged and marketed, and $15k doesn't go very far at all) and if its successful enough, to be able to afford the inspected/commercial kitchen.   A modest living:  $2k a month. 

The foods that they're talking about here are shelf-stable products, and the risk to the consumer is pretty low, and it doesn't cost the state or county anything -- in fact, being exempt from inspection will probably save the state/county money. 

Here's how you can help: 
Email the bill sponsors and ask them to raise the gross sales limit on bill 5748  to $15,000/month, and tell them that you appreciate them supporting small farms and helping small businesses. | See his district here | See her district here | See his district here

You'll find a current draft of the bill here.


StefRobrts said...

This sounds like a great bill, except for the gross sales limitation. Frankly, I know people who already sell their jam and pickles illegally, and it would be nice for them to be able to do it above board. They want to, but they can't afford a commercial kitchen. This sounds like a solution, and even at $15k a year it would work for them, as it's just a little side business, but allowing them to grow their business into something they could live on would be a much better option.

Karen said...

Are those types of products allowed to be sold at farmers markets without having to be produced in a commercial kitchen?
I'm just over the border in BC and do that with Health Board approval. It is considered as sold at a temporary location, as compared to selling in a store where it would be for sale in a permanent location. I couldn't sell in store without processing in a commercial kitchen. Don't see what the difference is really, but it works for me, and there is no cap on the amount allowed to be sold.

Bruce King said...

Karen, I don't see the difference either, but as a loophole that favors the producer, I'm ok with the distinction that they make.

The bill as currently contemplated allows for the sale only from the premises that it was produced on, as in your own house or farm. I'd like to see the ability to sell in farmers markets.

They actually specifically disallowed the selling of your product via the internet in this draft pf the bill. I'm not sure why -- for farms that are a long way from the market, the internet is often the only source of customers that they have.

Folks, if you'd like the option to sell stuff legally from your farm, please do take the time to email one of the sponsors of the bill, and specifically I'd suggest asking for the gross sales limit to be raised and that the areas where it might be sold expanded to both the internet and farmers markets.