California State Assembly Bill 2168 will be heard and hopefully approved by the appropriations committee Wednesday. The bill would relax the restrictions currently in place on what farmers can sell at roadside stands. Presently, farmers are allowed to sell only whole items grown on their property, which prevents them from making bottled water or homemade processed foods such as jams or pies available to the roadside consumer.
Changing this law will benefit all parties involved. Those who frequent roadside stands will have a greater selection, farmers will be able to sell more of their product and chefs will be allowed to buy food for their restaurants, leading to even fresher food at dining establishments across the state.
The law currently requires that farmers selling products as simple as jams from their concession stands meet health code requirements for standard food processing plants. This essentially prohibits the sale of processed food because roadside stands can hardly afford to have sinks, plumbing and other expensive apparatuses.
The proposed legislation changes these requirements, which is only logical; the farmers are not preparing the food on the side of the road, but elsewhere on the farm. Consumers purchasing from roadside stands are already accepting a risk, whether the food is processed or not. As long as the facilities on the farm are up to sanitary snuff, farmers should be able to sell whatever preserves or fruit-filled pastries they wish.
The bill, unanimously passed by the Committee on Agriculture on Apr. 16, could be held back because it would mean state expenditure – something unlikely to be approved during the current budget crisis.
It is hoped that the bill will not be suspended, despite the budget concerns. If anything, it will improve the state economy by increasing farm revenue throughout California.