Restrictive laws hurt cottage food industry

By Aaron Rice
May 9, 2019

Mississippi has among the most limiting cottage food laws in the country. 

Passed just a few years ago, Mississippi’s cottage food operators law allows those who bake or prepare goods at home to sell them to the public without a government inspection or certificate. Because of this law, those who had long been baking without asking government now had permission from the state.

But the law limits gross annual sales to less than $20,000. This is the third lowest sales cap in the county, according to a report from the Institute for Justice. 

Among states that have cottage food laws, only South Carolina ($15,000) and Minnesota ($18,000) have lower caps. Seven other states have a similar $20,000 cap, including Alabama and Louisiana.

Our two other neighboring states, Arkansas and Tennessee, however, have no cap. They are two of 28 states that do not place a limitation on what you can earn. 

Cottage food limitations by state

StateSales capOnline salesRestaurant/ retail sales

Among states that have a sales cap, the average is just under $29,000.

Who are cottage food operators?

According to the IJ report, 83 percent of cottage food producers are female while more than half (55 percent) live in rural communities. 

Just a few (20 percent) consider this there main occupation. Forty-two percent say it is a supplementary occupation and 35 percent categorize it as a hobby. And the most significant benefit for most operators was the ability to be your own boss and have flexibility and control over the schedule. Indeed, the ability to balance work and family was a top consideration for female business operators, along with the low operational costs. 

This year legislation would have lifted the cap to $35,000. While there shouldn’t be a cap, that would have been an improvement. It passed the House, but failed to make it out of the Senate. 

While most cottage food operators are micro-enterprises, some do or would like to grow into sizeable operations. And we should support that. 

After all, that should be the goal of the state, to encourage growth. Cottage food businesses enhance the financial and personal well-being of their owners. They provide an in-demand product to a willing consumer. And they positively benefit sales tax collections for the state. 

There has not been evidence to suggest that lightly regulated states pose a threat to public health as some like to indicate. The limitations really just serve to limit competition for established businesses. By eliminating restrictions in Mississippi, we can give consumers new options, grow the economy, and encourage entrepreneurship. 


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