The Mississippi On-Farm Sales and Food Freedom Act, authored by state Rep. Dan Eubanks (R-Walls) would allow intrastate sales of agricultural products directly from the producer to consumers and would prevent local governments from restricting those sales.
The bill would also mandate a “buyers beware” label for these goods that would warn of health risks from consuming raw, unprocessed agricultural products.
The bill is up against a deadline, as Tuesday is the deadline for bills to pass out of committee.
According to Eubanks, Mississippians are spending $8.5 billion a year on food and most of that is imported from out of state.
“Ninety percent of our food we import and we’re an ag state,” Eubanks said. “The irony is we’ll commit billions in taxpayer money on incentives and bond issues to bring in economic development and you might get 500, 1,000 jobs.
“All we’ve got to do is make a little change to our law, wouldn’t cost us a dime. If we started buying five percent more locally grown, you’re talking $400 million plus that would stay in our state. If it stays in our state, it would create jobs.”
He says that passage of this bill would allow the birth of a cottage farm industry in the state and help small farms grow into larger operations.
He also says that it’s absurd that the state sells cigarettes with a disclaimer on each box about their health effects, but won’t allow its citizens to buy raw milk. Also, it’s legal in the state for consumers to buy raw goat’s milk.
“We put such an impediment in the way of people trying to live healthier,” Eubanks said. “We’re the unhealthiest state in the country. We consume so much processed, artificial foods and we need to eat more whole, natural foods and yet we want to put a road block in the way to helping further that for some communities.”
As for neighboring states, Alabama and Louisiana prohibit all sales of raw milk for human consumption while Arkansas allows the on-farm sale of up to 500 gallons of raw milk. Tennessee only allows raw milk to be obtained through what is known as a “cow share agreement” where an individual or a group pay a farmer for boarding and milking a cow that they own.
Nationally, 13 states allow sale of raw milk in stores while 17 states allow sales only on the farm where it was produced.