In 2021 the MT Local Food Choice Act (MT-LFCA) was passed into law which allowed certain foods that were made in home kitchens and potentially hazardous to be sold to an “informed end consumer” at farmers markets. The bill’s author, Sen. Greg Hertz (R) is requesting revisions to this law, proposed in Senate Bill 202. Our understanding is that these revisions are to add clarifications to the law regarding where homemade foods can be sold. Grow Montana wants to make sure farmers market operators have a chance to review these revisions, ask questions, and contact your representatives if you wish to do so. The proposed amendments can be read HERE.
The revised bill has passed the Senate and has been referred to the House Agriculture Committee and was heard on March 21. There were three opponents who testified against the bill, but we have been informed there were many proponents that sent in written letters of support. If you feel strongly about keeping this bill from passing, then sending a letter to the committee is recommended.
You can now contact the committee members and ask them to preserve farmers market managers’ autonomy by stopping the bill or redrafting it to preserve the agency of farmers markets.
We have developed language in THIS DRAFT LETTER which you are welcome to use to contact the committee members and representatives. You can send one letter to the entire committee or individual legislators using THIS FORM. You can find your representative using this INTERACTIVE MAP. Also available is THIS GUIDE on how to share written comments or virtual testimony.
Grow Montana has sought guidance from state agencies and organizations to advise on how these revisions would impact farmers markets. We learned that no one is sure, which is a problem. Revisions should make things clearer, not muddy the waters. Farmers markets are often required to assume liability for injury or personal harm, and Grow Montana believes farmers market operators should have the right to decide what is allowed to be sold at their markets. We know these decisions are informed by community members and neighbors, and that right should remain intact. We are concerned these revisions may impede farmers markets’ ability to set their own, stricter rules on what could be sold at the market, and we are worried that the revisions may force market operators to allow foods sold under MT-LFCA, whether they want to allow them or not.
In the original MT-LFCA, it was understood that farmers markets and their organizing bodies would be able to decide whether to allow foods sold under MT-LFCA as part of individual market rules. It is our understanding that the ability for a market to determine if they will or won’t allow potentially hazardous homemade food items is based on the fact that the MT-LFCA did not amend the existing farmers market statute. When a market wanted to act with caution, they could just ‘choose to follow’ the farmers market statute. This proposed revision would disallow that option as, if passed, homemade food would now be included in the items ‘allowable’ for sale at farmers markets under “Requirements for Farmers Markets” (50-50-121).