The argument for keeping food local and sustainable is strong, but not without opponents. Montana right now is in the midst of legislation that is looking to streamline state food regulations, with House Bill 630. This bill introduces the idea of regulating and encourage the “cottage food industry” in the state, like 40 other states have already done.
A public meeting was held January 9th, 2014, where many people stood up on both sides and made their argument. One person said, “Local food doesn’t mean it’s healthier.” Another said, “I want to know where my food comes from.”
Proponents of the cottage food industry want to see the many roadblocks to producing food on a small scale removed. Right now, it is nearly impossible for someone to go from producing meat for themselves to selling it, because of the exorbitant costs and regulations involved in the processing. Most of Montana meat is processed out of state, and the meat that is brought back in could be from anywhere.
Kristen Lee-Charlson, local food activist, is involved in policy work and consulting, and runs the Heirloom Project and the Missoula Heirloom Winter Farmers’ Market. In this interview, we discuss the House Bill, as well as the key issues revolving around cottage food and local food. We also explore the idea of raw milk, why it is illegal in the state of Montana (as it is in many states), and the major potential health benefits it may contain.
We refer to the film Farmageddon, which looks at the issues of regulation of small family farms and raw milk in America today.
We encourage anyone from Montana to please contact Cort Jensen (email: firstname.lastname@example.org) before the second week of February to let him know your thoughts about the cottage food industry. This is the time to act! We CAN influence how small farms move forward.