Wrapping Up the Legislative Session – Policy Report from the Food & Farm Coalition

November 19, 2014   Tags:

Note: This article was originally published April 24, 2013.

WVFFC staff spent a good bit of time at the Capitol this month.  It has been an exciting session for local food!
With help from the Hub’s Director of Community Engagement and Policy, Stephanie Tyree, we met with numerous legislators, talked at length with Commissioner Walt Helmick, and organized the WVFFC-supported Meat Processing Working Group to speak with decision-makers.  It is encouraging to see how much support for local food is brewing at the Capitol.  As the legislature starts to wrap up, here’s an update on what has taken place.

Two resolutions related to local food are on the legislative docket and are expected to move forward, however the House Speaker and Senate President still need to put them on the final list to be addressed during interims:

Significant bills that have passed:

This fee schedule used by WVDHHR raised criticism from many small-scale food manufacturers because it placed a heavy burden on the smallest manufacturers.  Even a very small business (or anyone producing less than $25,000 in products per year) had to pay a  minimum of a $100 fee.  The WV Food & Farm Coalition held a series of calls to discuss and understand the rule, how it became law, and what processors could do to change the rule.  A number of food manufacturer made calls to the WVDHHR and their legislators to complain.

The following spring, WVDHHR proposed a rule change reducing the fee the smaller producers – creating a $35 fee for those producing up to $7,499 in products per year, and a $70 fee for those producing  $7,500-$14,999 in products per year.  For larger producers, the fees remain the same.  The current fee schedule is here on the WVDHHR web site.  The modified fee schedule is here on page 19.  The new fee schedule was made official through a legislative vote, which is required for all changes to administrative rules in WV.

While it is always difficult for small business owners to be hit with new fees, the new scale-appropriate fee schedule is more fair to small producers.  So we appreciate WVDHHR’s efforts to update the rule.

Meat Processing Working Group encourages rules for on-farm processing and support for meat processing businesses

On April 1, WVFFC’s Meat Processing Working Group visited with Commissioner of Agriculture Walt Helmick, Dr Robert Pitts of WV Dept. of Agriculture Meat & Poultry Inspection Division, and several key legislators to discuss the working group’s findings on how WV could expand meat processing options and support for slaughterhouses. The meetings went very well, and WVDA is actively pursuing our ideas about expanded options for on-farm processing of poultry and rabbits.  The working group also helped pull together text and research for SCR 47, the study resolution on meat processing mentioned above.

The Meat Processing Working Group has been working since early 2012 to understand and address bottlenecks in meat processing.  Its other projects include a statewide survey of meat processors and a guide for producers on how to navigate processing regulations when selling to a variety of markets.  For more information about the Meat Processing Working Group, contact working group chair Nadine Perry of Black Oak Holler Farm at nadineperry293@aol.com.