Montana Citizens Help Streamline State Food Regulations

January meetings will help explain process.

Published on: Dec 25, 2013

Three Montana state  agencies and a group of citizen stakeholders have launched a public process to review the state's food laws and rules for   inconsistencies and inefficiencies.

The review, ordered by the state legislature earlier this year, also orders the reviewers to establish a cottage food law for Montana.

While there is no cottage food law in Montana as exists in several other states, the department hopes to establish guidelines under the category when the review is completed in mid-2014.

An example of cottage food law may be found in Virginia where the law restricts producers  to selling from homes and farmers' markets. The new law in that state says that cottage food products will be allowed under certain restrictions.

Growers in many states, including Montana, are opting  to establish cottage farm industry laws that would encourage home or on farm marketing of production to consumers.
Growers in many states, including Montana, are opting to establish cottage farm industry laws that would encourage home or on farm marketing of production to consumers.

Cottage foods in Virginia are operations that do not need licenses or kitchen inspections if production is under a certain dollar level. For homemade pickles, for example, Virginia law states that only $3,000 of product a year qualifies under the cottage category. In honey, the restriction is for less than 250 gallons  annually.

Virginia law also allows cottage operators to  get a license and become a home food processor which triggers different regulatory standards.

The Montana Department of Agriculture, Public Health and Human Services and Livestock will hold public meetings next month in Missoula, Bozeman and Billings to receive public comment on their experience with application of the state's food laws and rules.

The results of this project will include a report to the Interim Economic Affairs Committee of the legislature and recommendations for changes to improve the state's food regulatory environment.

A list of meetings follows:

  • Missoula: Jan. 9, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Montana State University conference room, 2825 Santa Fe Court (use east entrance)
  • Bozeman: Jan. 13, 10 a..m.-2 p.m., Bozeman Public Library large meeting room,   626 Main St.
  • Billings: Jan 21, 10 a.m.- 1 p.m., Yellowstone County Courthouse, Room 105, 217 N. 27th St.

For more information or to provide written comments, contact Cort Jensen, MDA, at (406) 444-5402, or email him at cojensen@mt.gov.

For more information on the mandate to review the food laws of Montana, go to http://leg.mt.gov/bills/2013/sesslaws/ch0300.pdf.