Santa Fe, N.M.—Saturday afternoon, the New Mexico Senate voted 38-2 to pass the Homemade Food Act, which would make it easier for New Mexicans to support their families by selling foods made in their home kitchens. The bill passed the New Mexico House of Representatives 63-1 earlier in March. Currently, New Mexico has one of the weakest homemade or “cottage food” laws in the country, making this route for entrepreneurship unfeasible for ordinary New Mexicans. Worse yet, Albuquerque completely bans the sale of homemade foods. That is all set to change as Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is anticipated to sign the uncontroversial yet groundbreaking bill, which stands to create thousands of small businesses in the coming years.
Once signed into law, the bill will accomplish three major goals. First, it will allow sales directly to consumers, rather than only at farmers’ markets or roadside stands. Second, it will remove a burdensome New Mexico Environment Department permit requirement that requires pages of paperwork and can require thousands of dollars in kitchen upgrades before a person can sell. Finally, sales will be legal throughout the state, including in Albuquerque, where the sale of all homemade foods is currently banned. The Institute for Justice (IJ), the nation’s leading advocate for food freedom, condemned Albuquerque’s ban and supported the Homemade Food Act to help all New Mexico homemade food producers thrive. The Rio Grande Foundation and Americans for Prosperity also supported the bill.
“This legislation proves that when there are needless restrictions hurting New Mexico families, both parties can work together to solve it,” said IJ Senior Attorney Erica Smith. “People should be able to freely buy and sell homemade foods without having to worry about the cookie police.” Reps. Marion Matthews and Zach Cook sponsored the bill.
Many would-be homemade food sellers have called the Legislature to ask them to support the bill, which applies only to the sale of shelf-stable foods like baked goods, jams, popcorn, dried pasta and roasted coffee beans. One of them is Trish Ray from San Felipe Pueblo, who testified in support of the bill.
“Passing this bill means that I can legally sell baked goods to fellow New Mexicans and supplement my income,” Trish said. “As a single mother I am doing everything possible to save up for my son’s college tuition and a home-based bakery would help me get started towards that goal.”
For Katie Sacoman in Albuquerque, the change in law will mean she gets to support her family doing what she loves most: baking. Katie quit her teaching job when her daughter was born, but was so frustrated to learn of Albuquerque’s ban, she considered moving. Now, she can make money from home while selling delicious cookies.
“I am really grateful for all the representatives and senators who took time to listen and talk to us,” Katie said. “I’m so grateful that this huge barrier has been lifted for starting my business. We can stay in our homes and start this dream.”
In 2017, IJ authored the nation’s first comprehensive study of cottage food businesses, which showed that cottage food businesses serve as an important path to entrepreneurship for their owners, especially for women living in rural areas. Even a small amount of extra income from a cottage food business can be helpful to New Mexico households making it through the COVID-19 recession.
The Homemade Food Act is expected to go into effect on July 1, 2021.