Sheryl Brousseau attended the hearings and updated Patch with the following:
"We attended and spoke at the two hearings. An amendment was passed for bill 4706 to make it read just like H.4689, and S.1035. The Dept. Of Agriculture is insisting on an oncome cap which we don't think we need, but have conceded to it in the House bills in order for the bill to pass. Both bills will go to full committee tomorrow, and if no objections are raised, they will go for their second reading next week. The Senate bill will go for it's second reading soon. We had one Representative and one retail bakery speak in opposition. Most all the Reps we talked to were very agreeable to it."
A pair of bills being presented today before the House Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee has the baking community in South Carolina divided.
As it stands right now, baking out of one’s home for a fee is illegal. But House bills H4689 and H4706, both would allow private residents to prepare food at home for sale without being subject to inspection from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.
The bills, commonly referred to as Cottage Food Bills, would require sellers to place a sticker on their products informing customers that what they are buying has not been prepared in a kitchen approved by DHEC. The sticker would also be required to list the ingredients and the home address of the baker.
H4706, sponsored by Rep. Bill Sandifer (R-2), would cap gross earnings $15,000 per year. A similar bill passed a first reading in the Senate in January.
Mauldin’s State Senator, David Thomas (R-8) called the Cottage Food Bills “pro-business” in an interview earlier this year.
At first glance, the bill would seem to make it possible for people to legally earn extra income out of their home, while serving as a potential boost to people who are struggling financially.
But Karrie Daze, who opened in Mauldin last year with her husband Glen, says the bills could devastate businesses like hers.
Daze lives a life that many small business owners, especially ones starting out, know very well.
“We both work 80 hours a week,” Daze said. “During wedding season we open when it’s dark outside and close when it’s dark outside.”
The hours have started to pay off as her business has showed slow and steady growth from one month to the next.
However, all of Daze’s efforts could be threatened by at-home bakers, who have almost no overhead and can therefore sell cakes and other baked goods at a fraction of the price that retailers like Daze can.
The financial advantage isn’t the main reason why Daze is against the Cottage Food bills.
“It’s a public safety issue,” Daze said. “We deal with things that are potentially hazardous and things that need to be regulated.”
Daze is sympathetic to people want to bake from home, but she feels that they still ought to follow the same safety rules as retailers.”
“If they want to bake from home they need to get a legal kitchen,” she said. “It should be able to be inspected before there is problem. DHEC could walk into my business at any time.”
Daze knows that people will always bake cakes and other pastries out of their home and sell them, but she said passing a law to make it legal would be “like raising the speed limit in response to all the people who are driving too fast.”
Courtney Tessler, owner of , ICED, was in complete agreement with Daze. And she also raised the issue of taxes.
“How will they be taxed and how will they report taxes collected?” she wondered.
“Will they register with the state the same way all other businesses do and pay the same fees? There is a great risk they will not and claim ignorance, if caught.”
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Sheryl Brousseau has been baking cakes in her Edgefield home for the better part of 30 years. Last fall, she wondered about selling them and learned of the restrictions. So she contacted her local senator, Shane Massey (R-25) who quickly put together a bill.
Brousseau, who will be testifying at the hearing today, then began talking to others in a similar situation on a a Facebook page dedicated to passing a Cottage Food Bill.
“It’s been amazing how fast this has moved,” Brousseau said, credited the momentum to the Facebook page and with her cohort’s willingness to contact their elected officials.
Brousseau has learned of several people throughout the state who have been shut down by DHEC when they tried to advertise their products and services.
Home-based bakers will be limited to the amount they can produce and they can only sell directly to a customer. For these reasons, Brousseau doesn’t think retailers should feel threatened.
“I don’t think the competition will be anything like the retail bakers are expecting,” she said.
Still, she understands their concerns.
“The overhead for running a retail bakery is probably astronomical, but I don’t think any of the home bakers are going to get rich. People are making two or three cakes a week and maybe a batch of cupcakes.”
Brousseau also explained that in many of the rural parts of the state there are no bakeries and even if renting space in a kitchen were financially viable, very few such places exist.
“People want to be able to earn a little extra money when times are tough or maybe they want to get started in their own business,” she said.
At least one baker is non-plussed by the new bill, in Mauldin. Part of the reason Craig Grounsell, isn’t worried is because his business also sells baking supplies and serves lunch.
“I trust the customer,” Counsell said. “As long as we keep giving them a good product they’ll keep coming back.”
Craig’s daughter Heather also thinks retailers will be fine. “If you have a bad experience with someone who baked at home, you really have nowhere to go, you’re kind of stuck. You have no one to complain to.”
Johnson also said she’s lost track of the number of times a customer has come in two days before a wedding or birthday party in a panic, ”’My friend said she would bake the cake, but now she can’t.’”
Which means that if the Cottage Food Bill does ultimately pass, it will impact bakers of all kinds and also the choices their customers must make.