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Eye On Boise

Hearing put off on Rep. Hart’s ‘Idaho Farm Freedom Act’

Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, is proposing an "Idaho Farm Freedom Act" that would exempt from any licensing, certification or inspection requirement the sale of farm products at farmers' markets, roadside stands, or directly to consumers, including for a "traditional community social event" like weddings, church socials, school events or potlucks. The bill, HB 431, "seeks to encourage local farm and agriculture economies by allowing an unregulated and uninhibited relationship between the farmer and/or the farmer's agent and the end consumer of the farm product," according to its statement of purpose.

There were several people there to testify and a letter from the Food Producers of Idaho expressing concerns about the bill when the House Agriculture Committee met this afternoon for a hearing on the measure, but Hart asked them to hold off on the hearing. The North Idaho lawmaker, who had introduced the measure as a personal bill, said he didn't realize until last night that it would be up for a hearing today and wasn't ready. "I'll come to you and get a hearing scheduled when I think I've done all my due diligence," Hart told the committee; the panel then voted to hold the bill at the discretion of the chairman, who could schedule it for a hearing later.

The Food Producers, in their letter, asked, "Why would we want to risk consumer health and potentially cause harm to the reputation of farmers' markets in Idaho?" The group urged lawmakers to oppose the bill "for the good of Idaho agriculture and protection of the buy local movement impacting our state."

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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