Proposed food law supports entrepreneurship in Nebraska

By Chad Nabity​, Grand Island, Nebraska; published in the Grand Island Independent, March 13, 2019

I would like to share my support for the changes proposed with Nebraska Legislative Bill 304. The proposed changes would broaden local food based economic development options by allowing people to sell the same types of non-hazardous food items (cookies, cakes, breads, along with jams and jellies) they can sell legally at farmers markets through other direct to consumer means. This may include Facebook-based buy, sell, and trade groups.

You have likely seen an advertisement by some local entrepreneur offering to sell cookies or bread directly to a consumer from the producer’s non-commercial kitchen to the person that is going to eat and enjoy the product. Under current Nebraska law that is not legal. The changes to the so-called “cottage food law” would allow the seller to connect legally with the buyer outside of a farmers market. As part of the changes, the seller will be responsible for labeling product in a manner that makes it clear that it was not produced in a commercial kitchen—ensuring full disclosure to the buyer.

Prior to the 2014 National Boy Scout Jamboree, my sons sold baked goods (banana bread, zucchini bread, kolaches, pretzels, etc.) at the Grand Island farmers market. They did this for two summers. At the ages of 13 and 14, they were able to pay for over $4,000 of their expenses for the trip. They, especially during the holiday season while there are no active farmers markets, sell by promoting their products online. What they did was not legal at the time or under current law. I did not know that it wasn't legal or they would not have done it. Their activity though which helped them raise funds for their trip, would be legal with the proposed changes.

This type of small scale entrepreneurship is what is needed to grow new and innovative companies in Nebraska. The state should be encouraging all of these efforts, especially when they have little to no impact on public safety. All 49 other states allow these types of sales and they do so with no impact to public health and safety.

Small businesses like these can grow to become real players in the market. In Nebraska, we have examples such as Dorothy Lynch and Runza. Would there be a Cabela’s if you could not sell hand tied flies in the back of magazines or a Hornady Manufacturing if reloading was not possible in a back shed? Not all small efforts will result in large corporations, but even those small efforts can have an impact on the life of two young scouts trying to earn their way to the National Jamboree.