Have state regulations limited your home-based business? We want to hear from you

Farm and Food

The ability to sell homemade food directly to consumers has been an opportunity for many rural residents looking to supplement their income or test out a potential business without the large startup costs. Recent changes in cottage food laws in Nebraska and Iowa have made it more accessible for cottage food producers to share their products with their communities. If you have experience with cottage food, whether you’re a producer or customer, the Center for Rural Affairs would like to hear from you. 

While all states allow for the sale of these products—often referred to as cottage foods—regulations vary, with some limiting annual sales earnings, restrictions on where these products can be sold, and what kind of foods are deemed safe to sell. 

At the minimum, foods such as baked goods, candies, popcorn, and granola bars that don’t require refrigeration are allowed in every state. In Nebraska cottage food sales are restricted to only these shelf-stable products and sellers must register their home-based business with the Department of Agriculture and complete a food-safety course. 

A bill introduced earlier this year in the Nebraska Legislature seeks to update the types of products that can be sold at farmers markets and other events. 

Legislative Bill 321 would expand the cottage food law to include some products that need refrigeration such as cheesecakes, cream-filled pastries, and sauces such as hummus, pesto, or salsa. If approved, Nebraska would join other states that have updated regulations based on consumer demand for more locally sourced foods. 

As with Nebraska, Iowa’s cottage food law limits sales to shelf-stable products sold from the home. But, in 2022, the Legislature passed the Home Food Processing Establishment Act—one of the more progressive laws regulating homemade foods—which allows for the sale of products needing to be kept hot or cold upon the successful completion of an inspection of the seller's home kitchen and after they obtain a license. 

At the Center, we value your stories and experiences. If you’re a cottage food producer who is limited in what you can sell because of current regulations in Nebraska, or if you expanded your home business in Iowa to offer a wider variety of products after the passage of the Home Food Processing Establishment Act, please reach out to me. I’d like the opportunity to share your challenges and successes with lawmakers as they consider updates to their cottage food laws. I can be reached at carliej@cfra.org or 402.687.2100 ext. 1032.