Home-food business bills find favor in first hearings
Committees in the Colorado House and Senate on Thursday simultaneously heard two bills introduced by local lawmakers designed to help Coloradans create their own home-food businesses.
While the House Economic & Business Development Committee approved a measure offered by Rep. Laura Bradford, R-Collbran, the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources & Energy Committee supported another one introduced by Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, and Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose.
Both measures center on allowing would-be entrepreneurs to use their own home kitchens to produce products meant for local sale.
Dozens of people testified in favor of both measures, many saying they have been left jobless because of the recession and are just looking for ways to become self-employed.
“If I was able to do this, I wouldn’t have to rely on the state. That’s one less person that they have to pay for,” Mandy Gabelson, who operates Ava Sweet Cakes from her Mesa County home, told the House committee while testifying for Bradford’s bill. “We want to be entrepreneurs, but there has to be a way for us to walk through that door.”
Bradford’s bill is intentionally limited to “nonpotentially hazardous” food. That primarily means baked goods, such as cookies, cakes or brownies.
The Schwartz/Coram bill, which would create the Colorado Cottage Food Act, includes other home-food businesses, such as fruit and vegetable canning.
But Schwartz’s bill is far more limiting, critics said. It caps annual sales for a single, home-produced product at $5,000 a year. Still, local farmers said Schwartz’s measure would help.
“This bill would make a big difference to our farm operation, as we could use excess or injured produce to make garlic and chile powder, dried tomatoes, kale chips, potato bread and lots more,” Paonia farmer Monica Wiitanen told the Senate committee. “It really has a spiral effect, and I think it will bring some life and prosperity into our community.”
A similar bill introduced by Schwartz and Coram last year was defeated because of concerns it would raise too many public health issues.
■ In other Legislature news, a House committee killed a bill Thursday to set campaign donation limits on school board candidates.
On a 5-4 party-line vote, the GOP dominated House State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee killed HB1067, which would have set contribution limits to school board candidates of $500 per individual and $5,000 per small donor committee.