Video: House Passes Watered Down “Food Freedom Bill” After Feisty Debate

Rep. Ron Guggisberg (D-Fargo) speaks against legislation easing restrictions on selling homemade foods.

When Rep. Luke Simons (R-Dickinson) introduced HB1433 everyone was calling it the “raw milk bill.” Simons even posted a picture of himself on social media drinking a jar of raw milk on the House floor.

But by the time the bill came up for a floor debate it had been amended so that raw milk was no longer a part of it.

The bill “allows people to make food at home and directly sell it to consumers,” Rep. Aaron McWilliams (R-Hillsboro) said while carrying the House Agriculture Committee’s 11-3 “do pass” recommendation to the House floor. “Church sales and bake sales are things we already do,” said McWilliams.

Some of the lawmakers wondered why the bill was needed if selling home made products at bake sales or farmer’s market is already legal. Simons said that while people were already going those things, they weren’t explicitly protected in the law. That’s what his bill does now.

There was a tense exchange between McWilliams and Rep. Ron Guggisberg (R-Fargo) over labeling of these products. Guggisberg asked how consumers would know the food products they’re buying are homemade and exempt from the inspection and packaging regulations other foods, such as those sold in grocery stores, must comply with.

Guggisberg, apparently unhappy with the answer from McWilliams, threw some shade back. “Maybe I should just look at the names at the top of the bill” and oppose it,” he said in response.

A reasonable question. I don’t have a problem with people buying homemade food, or even things like raw milk for that matter, as long as they understand what they’re buying.

McWilliams responded that people would know by looking at the packaging. They will know the nature of the product “the same way anyone who buys at a farmers market today knows,” he said.

Guggisberg, apparently unhappy with the answer from McWilliams, threw some shade back. “Maybe I should just look at the names at the top of the bill” and oppose it,” he said in response.

That’s a reference to comments McWilliams made yesterday during a debate over legislation which would require that all bills introduced in a legislative session, outside of agency budgets, have a legislator as a sponsor. McWilliams said that he often considers the identities of the sponsors of a given piece of legislation to help him decide if it’s coming from a liberal or conservative perspective.

I guess that didn’t sit well with Guggisberg. The exchange was tense, and House Speaker Larry Bellew (R-Minot) had warn the lawmakers to keep the debate focused on the bill at hand.

Anyway, the bill passed on a 69-21 vote, and I think that was the right move.

We’ve all eaten food from pot lucks and bake sales. Heck, I’ve even bought a couple of pies in years past at political fundraising events. None of that food is inspected today.

I think it’s important that people be aware of the provenance of the food they eat, and I’d support some regulation for homemade foods to ensure that consumers are aware of what they’re getting. But beyond that, I say let people eat what they want.

Choice is a good thing.

Here’s the video of the floor debate:

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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