Food Freedom Prevails After Tense Floor Debate in North Dakota House

Rep. Luke Simons (R - District 36) during floor debate in SB 2269. This bill would have added regulations to the cottage food industry. It was defeated by a vote of 26-65. (Photo via screenshot.)

Back in February, I wrote that North Dakota’s Food Freedom Law was under attack again. This time it came in the form of Senate Bill 2269, which was sponsored by former grocer and current State Senator and Assistant Majority Leader Jerry Klein (R – District 14). In reality, Klein was attempting to do what the State Health Department failed to accomplish a year ago when they planned to regulate the cottage food industry— despite the fact that current law prohibits them from doing so.

You might recall that this move by the Health Department resulted in the threat of a lawsuit from an attorney with the Institute for Justice. As they should have, the Health Department took that seriously, backed down, and cancelled public hearings they had planned on proposed administrative rules.

Initially, Senator Klein’s efforts with SB 2269 sought to make serious modifications to the Food Freedom Law. For example:

  1. Drink products would no longer have been permitted to be sold. Things like homemade lemonade, various juices, etc.— all would have been off limits. This is akin to criminalizing lemonade stands.
  2. No more refrigerated foods. All foods would have needed to be transported frozen. Those yummy vegetable and fruit salads— no way. Heck, even that fresh banana crème pie would have required freezing.
  3. No more meats— including no foods that contain meat.
  4. No  more non-acidic canned fruits or vegetables. 
  5. No more seed sprouts or garlic in oil.
  6. Labeling would have been required that includes handling instructions.
  7. Sale of fresh, uncut produce would have been subject to regulations not found in current law.

As is often the case with legislation, SB 2269 took a number of twists and turns throughout the legislative process. At one point, supporters of Food Freedom felt they had a palatable bill that passed the House on April 9th by a vote of 70-21. But the Senate wasn’t satisfied with the changes and refused to concur with the amended version. This resulted in a conference committee where it was again amended and passed by the Senate.

This left the bill in the hands of the House this afternoon. According to the North Dakota Food Freedom website:

“… the final version of SB 2269 accepted by the conference committee would have greatly restricted the foods legal to sell and denied families the right to continue marketing the products they’ve been legally making for nearly two years.

“Although the Senate voted unanimously to approve the conference committee’s version of the bill April 18th, the House of Representatives took on those who believe homemade food is ‘too risky’ because it’s ‘potentially dangerous’.

“After spirited debate, the House voted 26 Yes, 65 NO, and 3 absent to defeat the conference committee version. This allows the current Food Freedom law to stand as is.”

While this is indeed an accurate statement on what occurred, it doesn’t quite tell the entire story. For that you really should watch the floor debate in its entirety here. Figuratively speaking, it was a slugfest— for a floor debate anyhow. And the primary issue at hand was over the fact that the amendment out of conference committee removed the ability to sell low acid foods.

On the one side, we had Representatives Bernie Satrom (R – District 12), Cynthia Schreiber-Beck (R – District 25), and Dennis Johnson (R – District 15) arguing in favor of increased regulation. On the other, we had Ben Koppelman (R – District 16), Sebastian Ertelt (R – District 26), Aaron McWilliams (R – District 20), Rick Becker (R – District 7), Luke Simons (R – District 36), Dan Johnston (R – District 24), and Dan Ruby (R – District 38) advocating for individual Liberty and a Free Market.

You really have to watch to see how intense the debate got at times. From Bernie Satrom arguing that regulation makes us more free to Rick Becker sarcastically thanking him for being willing to protect people from themselves, it was fascinating to watch. And that’s not even considering Speaker of the House Larry Klemin (R – District 47) chastising Sebastian Ertelt for “offensive language” when there literally was no offensive language at all. One of the best comments came when Dan Johnston referred to the Department of Health as the “Department of Control”. It was classic— and on point. And I promise you there’s more.

The House did the right thing by defeating this bill. As a result, the current Food Freedom Law will remain unchanged. But was this the last effort to meddle with the cottage food industry? I doubt it. And I can’t help but wonder if we’ll see the Health Department once again revive efforts to act administratively as a means of retribution. Only time will tell.




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About T. Arthur Mason 878 Articles
T. Arthur Mason is a native North Dakotan who has spent nearly all of his life in the Peace Garden State. As the third of four children in Western North Dakota, Mason grew to appreciate family and the outdoors. Some of his fondest memories are annual deer hunts with family and friends. In his early teenage years, faith became a central part of T. Arthur Mason's life. He and the majority of his family attend church together on a weekly basis and find this a fulfilling aspect of their lives. Through the influence of his father, T. Arthur Mason became intrigued with politics. As a boy, he attended political events with his father and enjoyed the friendships that resulted as a byproduct of those political associations. As Mason grew older, he became convinced that the quote often attributed to Thomas Jefferson was true, "That government is best which governs least." Today, T. Arthur Mason enjoys time with his wife and children, an occasional hunt, and an increasingly active life on the political scene. This blog is the fulfillment of a dream to design a web site in the realm of politics and to advocate for the principles of Liberty and constitutionally limited government. On behalf of all those that contribute to The Minuteman, we hope you enjoy your time on the site and will share the message with others.