Colorado 'Cottage Foods' Proposal Wins Senate Approval

05/05/2011 06:38 pm ET | Updated Jul 05, 2011
  • Matt Ferner The Huffington Post

A new cottage industry allowing Colorado farmers to sell foods prepared in home kitchens, rather than commercial kitchens, took a big step forward as the state Senate approved the “cottage foods” proposal on Wednesday.

Supporters of the bill in the state Senate believe this will make it easier for local farmers to make foods with low contamination risk like, jams, jellies, breads and roasted chilies. CBS Denver reports that small farmers will be able to profit from those prepared foods directly:

“They’ll be selling it by the jar, but eventually they’ll be selling it by the pallet,” said Democratic Sen. Gail Schwartz of Snowmass Village, sponsor of the bill SB11-258 short titled, "Local Foods To Local Markets."

However, Professor Dawn D. Thilmany of Colorado State’s Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics said this to The Huffington Post about the new proposal:

Us economists say that these kinds of proposals often do not produce small farmer food production companies. Although on the surface it sounds like a new opportunity to explore for state farmers, the reality is starting a new business enterprise, such as a homemade jam or jelly company, as well as being the farmer of those fruits that go into that jam can actually stifle innovation. Realistically, most farmers choose not to start these kinds of businesses. They are overwhelmed by the capital investment as well as the day-to-day operations and costs of running a small business.

The measure will be headed to the state House of Representatives after one more round of voting in state Senate.

UPDATE
Professor Dawn D. Thilmany later called to clarify:

I'm very happy there is so much attention to local foods and many of the producers I work with as an Extension Economist. The article made it sound like I was not supportive of the ideas behind the bill, when in fact, I was really just trying to share why I believed the bill is targeted at producers (rather than just any small food company). My discussion of the many barriers to small farmers seemed more like a belief the bill would make no difference. In reality, I just wanted to point out that this would lower one of those barriers, and maybe allow more innovation to happen (rather than being stifled). There are many merits (and some continuing concerns) about this bill, but it has value to many who see their independent business prospects improve if they can pilot food enterprises before they take more formal (and capital intensive) approaches.