In Wisconsin, Homemade Cookies are the Victims of Big Government
Things are hard out there for folks trying to make ends meat.
According to Watchdog.org, Wisconsin residents can go to jail and face steep fines if they dare to sell homemade baked goods without an OK from the government.
Under Wisconsin law, entrepreneurs selling homemade baked goods who prepare their products in home kitchens are not allowed to make a profit. After all, how will the state assure the quality of the those delicious cookies baked by grandma if she’s not following state regulations?
According to Institute for Justice’s attorney Erica Smith, entrepreneurs in Wisconsin could face a $1,000 fine or go to jail for up to six months even if they “sell one cookie at a farmers market, to your neighbor, [or] somewhere in your community.” This practice, the attorney told Watchdog, “[is] not only unfair, it’s unconstitutional.”
In order to remedy this problem locally, three Wisconsin farmers filed a lawsuit against the state Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection with the help of IJ’s Smith. The suit hopes to put an end to the ban on homemade baked goods.
But before there was a lawsuit, a piece of legislation introduced two years ago could have made small changes to the baked goods law. Unfortunately, the bill stalled in the Assembly after passing in the Senate. According to Smith, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) is the reason why the “cookie bill” won’t hit the House floor.
“That could very well be because he owns his own commercial food business,” known as Rojos Popcorn, Smith told Watchdog.
According to the bill, current law would be modified to allow up to $7,500 in annual homemade baked goods sale. While the proposed legislation isn’t perfect, it could have helped countless Wisconsin residents to earn some extra cash on the side.
According to Dave Schmdt, the executive director of the Wisconsin Bakers Association, the commercial food industry in the state is not happy with the proposed ban lift. “If several people in a certain market or particular community are doing that, they’re eating away at a local baker that’s been there for 100 years and taking away his livelihood,” Schmidt told Wisconsin Public Radio. To Schmidt, that’s simply not fair.
But home bakers also believe that the treatment they get from their own state government isn’t fair either.
To Lisa Kivirist, one of the plaintiffs fighting for her right to bake and sell her homemade goods, the “state’s home-baked-good ban hurts farmers, homemakers and others who just want to help support their family by selling simple goods from their home oven.”
Instead of keeping consumers happy and allowing local economies to gain from the competition, the ban also “prevents customers from buying the fresh and local foods of their choice,” Kivirist stated during a press event at the Capitol.
Current law keeps bakers from selling products that aren’t produced in commercial kitchens. To small outfits, the cost of setting up a commercial kitchen is simply too high. The only exemptions currently in place protect nonprofit groups such as churches or charity organizations. These groups are currently allowed to sell homemade goods, but there’s a catch: they may not put their products up for sale more often than 12 times a year.