CHEYENNE -- A bill to deregulate the individual sale of raw milk, canned goods and other foods that are considered to be potentially dangerous has cleared another legislative hurdle.
The Senate Agriculture, State and Public Lands and Water Resources Committee voted 3-2 on Thursday to advance House Bill 56, also known as the Wyoming Food Freedom Act.
The legislation already won unanimous approval from the 60-member House and will now advance to the Senate floor for more debate.
If passed into law, the proposal would end the state’s practice of requiring inspections, licensing and certification of certain homemade or homegrown products as long as the sales are single transactions between a producer and an “informed end consumer.”
This would apply to sales at farmers markets and sales of homegrown or locally raised products by small farmers or individuals to neighbors and people around the state.
Rep. Tyler Lindholm, R-Sundance, the lead sponsor of the bill, said this would take food “off of the black market” and would legalize something that commonly occurs throughout the state.
He said the bill would not apply to meat other than poultry or to interstate trade, so the proposal would not jeopardize the state’s compliance with federal regulations.
Several ranchers, farmers and other members of the public who attended Thursday’s hearing told the legislative panel that the government should not be involved in dictating what kinds of food an individual wants to buy.
“The government is not my parent,” said Cheyenne resident Lisa Glauner. “I would much rather have food the way God made it than have FDA-approved food that is not even real, like Kraft macaroni and cheese that doesn’t even have real ingredients.”
Frank Wallis, who lives in northern Campbell County, said many rural residents also depend on being able to sell their locally produced foods as a way to supplement their incomes.
“I urge you all to vote for this bill because it will be good for the rural economy of Wyoming,” he said. “And it will help small ranchers and farmers make a living so they don’t have to take another job.”
State health officials, however, cautioned that approval of the bill carries public safety risks.
Dr. Tracy Murphy, state epidemiologist at the Department of Health, testified before a House committee earlier in the session that allowing residents to sell unpasteurized raw milk is especially worrisome, since it has caused sporadic illnesses and outbreaks in the state.
Dean Finkenbinder, consumer health services manager for the Wyoming Department of Agriculture, also told lawmakers Thursday that he has concerns about the safety of foods prepared in homes and other unlicensed areas.
Sens. Fred Emerich, R-Cheyenne, and Gerald Geis, R-Worland, also opposed the bill.
But the bill passed with Sens. Paul Barnard, R-Evanston; Leland Christensen, R-Alta; and Dan Dockstader, R-Afton, voting for it.
“When the recession hit, this became a serious source of secondary income,” Dockstader said. “So this would just set some clarity to statute, because this is something that is not going to stop anytime soon.”