Wisconsin Farmers Union (WFU) Government Relations Director Kara O'Connor thanked the Wisconsin State Senate for passing SB 330, also known as the "Cookie Bill," through the Senate on Jan. 12.
"Wisconsin Farmers Union would also like to thank Sen. Harsdorf, Rep. Rorkaste, and the bill's long list of cosponsors for supporting this legislation, which will encourage small business innovation and enterprise growth," O'Connor said.
The Cookie Bill would allow home-based food entrepreneurs to sell their non-hazardous baked goods via face-to-face sales, without needing a commercial license or commercial kitchen.
Farmers Lisa Kivirist, Kriss Marian and Dela Ends challenged the Wisconsin law that prohibited them to sell even one cookie without a commercial license.
Homemade pickles, salsa, jams and jellies can be sold to consumers at farmers' markets and other venues without that license. But, muffins, bread and other baked goods need to be made in a commercial kitchen, which is subject to inspections and fees.
Those violating the law would be subject to six months in jail or up to $1,000 in fines.
The women filed a lawsuit in Lafayette County Circuit Court.
Kivirist who owns Inn Serendipity Bed & Breakfast in Green County said she was limited to serving only baked goods to visitors, but prohibited from selling muffins or other bakery items.
"We're heading into our 20th year as a bed-and-breakfast, so those are a lot of muffins that we could have sold," Kivirist said. "We should be able to sell baked goods out of our kitchens in Wisconsin. We look at what other states have. Wisconsin is open for business, but not in this category."
Attorney Erica Smith, from the Institute of Justice, said outfitting a commercial kitchen can cost approximately $40,000 to $80,000. Renting space in an existing commercial kitchen can cost more than $1,000 a month, she said, making it difficult to start a small baking business.
Homemade canned goods are treated differently. A state law, sometimes called the "pickle bill," allows limited sales of home-canned foods without a license. Fruits and vegetables that are naturally acidic or are acidified by pickling or fermenting can be sold directly to consumers, including applesauce, jams, jellies, chutneys and salsa. They must be sold only at community or social events, such as bazaars or farmers' markets, and sales must not exceed more than $5,000dg a year.
A proposal to allow the sale of baked goods without a license had failed to pass in the Legislature in previous years.
O'Connor said the bill represents an important step forward for aspiring food entrepreneurs and would also help stimulate entrepreneurship in rural economies by enabling farmers to launch complimentary, food-based businesses.
All other Midwest states, including Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan, have successfully enacted versions of the Cookie Bill, O'Connor noted.
"We need to quickly catch up with our Midwestern neighbors who are already championing such cottage food business start-ups, especially as the local food movement and interest in food artisans continues to grow in Wisconsin," she said. "We applaud the state Senate for passing the Cookie Bill, and we look to the Wisconsin Assembly to do the same."
The bill was authored by Sen. Harsdorf (R - River Falls) and Rep. Rohrkaste (R - Neenah), and cosponsored by Sens. Ringhand (D - Evansville), Gudex (R - Fond du Lac), Marklein (R - Spring Green), Olsen (R - Ripon), Bewley (D - Ashland), Lassa (D - Stevens Point), Vinehout (D - Alma), and Tiffany (R - Hazelhurst) as well as Reps. J. Ott (R - Mequon), Spreitzer (D - Beloit), Allen (R - Waukesha), Ballweg (R - Markesan), Bernier (R - Chippewa Falls), E. Brooks (R - Reedsburg), R. Brooks (R - Saukville), Craig (R - Big Bend), Edming (R - Glen Flora), Gannon (R - Slinger), Horlacher (R - Mukwonago), Jacque (R - DePere), Kitchens (R - Sturgeon Bay), Kleefisch (R - Oconomowoc), Kooyenga (R - Brookfield), Kremer (R - Kewaskum), Krug (R - Nekoosa), T. Larson (R - Colfax), Murphy (R - Greenville), Mursau (R - Crivitz), A. Ott (R - Forest Junction), Quinn (R - Rice Lake), Thiesfeldt (R - Fond du Lac), Steffen (R - Green Bay), Danou (D - Trempealeau), Genrich (D - Green Bay), Jorgensen (D - Milton), Milroy (D - South Range), Ohnstad (D - Kenosha), C. Taylor (D - Madison) and Sinicki (D - Milwaukee).