RECAPPING the 2019 LEGISLATIVE SESSION
The Health Department went to the Legislature via a bill sponsored by Senator Jerry Klein and proposed a very restrictive bill (SB 2269) which in part would have eliminated the sale of refrigerated items which could not be transported frozen, eliminated the sale of low-acid foods, set specific standards for pH testing of non-standard canning recipes, added specific moisture testing, added labeling requirements, added restrictions on the sale and transport of eggs and further restricted poultry sales. In fact, the original bill would have restricted the number of poultry you could even own if you were selling eggs/poultry! They stated the purpose of their bill was to "clarify" the law passed in 2017. We saw it as a way for the Health Department to implement all of the rules that they had wanted to write in 2018 when rulemaking was pulled.
Thanks to ND Food Freedom's testimony point by point on the bill, in the Senate Ag Committee the Senators removed the damaging wording about eggs and poultry. (It should be noted the Department of Ag, who oversees those sales, did not willingly testify on the bill, but did have someone come to the podium to answer questions from the committee after request by Chairman Larry Luick during the hearing. They admitted ND Food Freedom was correct.)
In the House Ag Committee ND Food Freedom's testimony included specific wording for amendments that:
- Allowed refrigerated foods to be sold if kept at temperatures of 40 degrees or less and transported less than four hours;
- Allowed low acid foods to be sold with a dire warning label (Language written by the Health Department.) plus a requirement that such foods be pressure canned instead of processing via water bath.
- Would require all cottage food operators - unless they ONLY sell fresh, uncut fruits and vegetables - to complete a basic food safety course. We found many of these available online free or at minimal cost, plus the State Health Department and local health districts offer many of these.
The House Ag Committee adopted all of the proposed amendments with minor changes EXCEPT the one requiring a food safety course - because the Health Department said that teaching such a course to an uninspected, unregulated group would somehow make them liable. Can you believe it? The State Health Department opposed a SAFETY COURSE!
The amended bill passed handily on the House Floor despite dire warnings from opponents about the dangers of low-acid home-canned products and potato salad. However, as the bill bounced immediately to the Senate Floor, the Senators quickly strove to refuse to concur with the House amendments. That set up a conference committee to work out differences between the House and Senate versions.
The conference committee was deadlocked at 3-3. When that happens, the committee has a choice - find a compromise or report they are deadlocked and a new committee is appointed. We knew we had our best people on this committee - and so did the Health Department. So the committee removed the House amendments and reported the bill to the Senate Floor where the committee report was adopted and the bill passed.
The bill was immediately sent to the House Floor - the same day! Luckily, our supporters were steadfast and ready for action. In what was confusing to those not familiar with legislative procedure, the House adopted the conference report, then - after stirring debate - handily defeated the Senate version of the bill. That left us with the 2017 law. It was a win for freedom!
ND Food Freedom was helped in this quest by North Dakota Farm Bureau, the Northern Plains Sustainable Ag Society and many cottage food producers across the state. National organizations like the Institute for Justice (who sent a rep to testify), the Weston A Price Foundation (who provided advice and alerts) and the Farm To Consumer Legal Defense Fund who sent member alerts also helped.
We also offer a HUGE THANK YOU to the steadfast members of the Legislature who stood to testify, offered amendments and voted for freedom. We have links to many of their speeches and a morein-depth description of their work here.
In summary - the Department of Health's proposal for restricting sales of cottage food products was soundly defeated in the 2019 State Legislature. The Department didn't get their way, so now they're trying to write law themselves. We must stop them.