Live Free or Die (hard): New Hampshire House bill seeks to exempt N.H. food from federal safety rules

NHBR reports that a bill that would exempt foods produced and sold in New Hampshire from federal food safety regulations is running into opposition from some of the very groups the bill says it would help.

A hearing on House Bill 1650 is scheduled for Friday. Sponsored by Rep. Josh Davenport, R-Newmarket, the measure would establish a "Made in New Hampshire" brand for foods that are grown or produced in the state.

Under the bill, so long as those foodstuffs were labeled as being "Made in New Hampshire" and sold only within the state, they would be subject only to state regulations and exempt from federal regulations.

Bill sponsors say it would promote the state’s agricultural economy, help small farmers and expand access to fresh, healthy foods.

But the New Hampshire Farm Bureau Federation, which represents the interests of farmers in the state, has come out in opposition to the bill, which it said "goes too far."

"There does need to be some oversight, and we recognize that," said Rob Johnson, executive director of the Farm Bureau.

In writing the bill, he said, "they really haven’t talked to the farmers on this."

"The real concern here is that we have all manner of onerous federal regulations coming down the pike that are making it illegal to do certain types of business in this state," said Rep. Andrew Manuse, R-Derry, who co-sponsored and helped write HB 1650.

Added Davenport: "The state of New Hampshire is perfectly capable of ensuring the safety of its own small farms and food production businesses."

Lorraine Merrill, the state’s agriculture commissioner said concerns, "relate to food safety and the reputation of New Hampshire food and products."

Merrill also called into question just how enforceable the bill would be, since it would be difficult to stop farmers along the border from selling their food out of state.

All it would take is for one of these "Made in New Hampshire"-labeled foods to be contaminated and make someone sick to damage the reputation of all food made in the state, said Johnson of the Farm Bureau.