Editor’s Notebook

Local food advocates on the hill:

By Greta Belanger deJong

Symbria and Sarah Patterson

In early February, we headed south to Cedar City for three days of the Fourth Annual Utah Farm and Food conference, produced by Red Acre Center. We took notes and met lots of interesting people. We’ll  share their stories in the months to come. But the most timely focus is on the nonprofit Red Acre Center itself—specifically the efforts of Red Acre founders and mother/daughter team Symbria and Sarah Patterson as they lobby at the State Capitol on behalf of Utah’s small farms. Here’s their report on what’s happening with food and farm-related bills the first half of the session. Their work on behalf of Utah’s small farmers is important to all of us who aim to choose food that is local, seasonal and sustainably grown as much as possible. Here is their report:

The famous bill from last year, HB 134 —Raw Milk Products Amendments (Rep. Kim Coleman) was presented again without opposition this year. It passed the House, was presented in the Senate Natural Resource Committee on February 24 and at presstime is on the second reading calendar in the Senate. This bill adds to the products that may be made from raw milk and offered for sale. It will allow producers who are licensed to produce raw milk to also produce cream and butter made from raw milk.

HB 232 Food Revisions (Rep. Roberts) We worked on a version of this bill last year and during the interim. This is a restricted agri-tourism food establishment permit bill that will allow farms and ranches to have events that include food. The food will not need to be prepared in a commercial kitchen. They must apply to the Health Department for a permit to use their private home kitchen. The permit would be issued on an annual basis to alleviate additional work for our already busy ranchers and farmers. The Health Department will not be allowed to place commercial kitchen requirements on these types of establishments. The Farm Bureau has worked with us on this and is supportive.  There is opposition from the Health Department. But on February 24 it unanimously passed the House Natural Resource Committee. It will now go to the House floor for a vote.

A companion bill (introduced by Rep. Christine Watkins) with the same provisions as HB 232 is being worked on that allows home kitchens to be licensed as micro-enterprise food establishments. This would allow many immigrants, single parents, low-income individuals and others to make and serve food using their private home kitchens. There’s a shortage of drafting attorneys this session and it is possible this will not get very far.

HB 358 ( Rep. Marc Roberts) Poultry Amendments would remove licensing requirements that were added by rule in the state of Utah and roll the requirements back to those that are listed under the federal poultry exemption portion of the Code of Federal Regulations. This would allow poultry producers who have qualified for the federal exemption to produce their product without additional licensing, inspection or further requirements.

The federal government has already placed faith in these producer growers in the form of limiting the federal requirements. We believe Utah should do the same. It has not yet been assigned to a committee.

Bill in process (Rep.Marc Roberts) Shell Eggs Amendments: Last year an egg bill was run and inadvertently the ability for producers having under 3,000 laying hens selling to stores was omitted from the bill. This bill would merely remedy that oversight.

You can  also track the status of any bill here: le.utah.gov/tracking/trackingLogin

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Recently we had the fun of attending an estate sale consisting of old movie and TV props. It was like visiting a museum of things to marvel at but which you really don’t want to bring home—with the exception of the poster pictured on this page.

It was accompanied by other clearly 1940s World War Two-era kitchen kitsch, when Americans were encouraged to live the lifestyle that more and more people aspire to now: raising some of their own food, buying from local farms, making broth from bones and scraps, composting the leftovers. Reducing food waste is rated #3 as a strategy for reversing global warming by Project Drawdown, spearheaded by Paul Hawkins.

It’s always been a good idea, but now we know it’s wise advice. The work of the Red Acre team at the Capitol is part of the revival as well. Thank you, Symbria and Sarah, for your good work! Learn more about their efforts at RedAcreCenter.org/


Greta deJong is CATALYST’s editor and founder.

This article was originally published on February 26, 2020.