Rabbit and poultry producers are praising a new law that reduces the regulatory controls and costs for them to do business.
Last year, the state Legislature passed House Bill 608, which allows small farmers to sell up to 1,000 processed — but uninspected — rabbits and fowl to New Hampshire restaurants.
As a result, the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension is working in cooperation with the state’s agriculture department to help inform farmers of the new law.
The Cooperative Extension is offering a course April 25 in Boscawen that fulfills a training requirement for producers under the new law. The workshop is from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
The goal of the workshop is to help them develop a plan for offering restaurants safe food products in lieu of U.S. Department of Agriculture inspections, according to extension specialist Daimon Meeh.
The new law, which will go into effect once the state finishes developing its rules, will open up new markets for producers, while providing enough safeguards to ensure food safety isn’t jeopardized, he said.
“It’s an effort to increase local agriculture and more access to it,” Meeh said.
Only 20 of the hundreds of poultry and rabbit producers in the state had signed up for the workshop as of late last week, he said.
Anyone who doesn’t take the workshop cannot sell their products to restaurants, Meeh said.
The plan is to make it easier for the farmers to receive training in the future, he said.
“The overall goal is it’s going to be developed into an online program,” Meeh said.
The bill was sponsored by Rep. Carol McGuire, R-Epsom.
She introduced the legislation after an acquaintance who raised chickens wanted to supplement his income.
While there are federal exemptions in place for farmers to sell uninspected products to customers, they couldn’t sell directly to restaurants.
“He said he couldn’t sell to restaurants,” McGuire said. “The problem was that the restaurants couldn’t buy it because of food safety rules.”
Having his chickens inspected before they were sold to restaurants was cost prohibitive, she said.
“He couldn’t make any money,” McGuire said.
The new law is receiving praise from two Southern New Hampshire farmers.
“It should be a big help to the small farms,” said Phil Ferdinando of J&F Farms in Derry. “It’s a good thing.”
Although J&F stopped selling chicken at its farmstand a few years ago, the farm still has 200 laying hens that produce eggs for customers, Ferdinando said.
He said the federal inspections are not needed if local regulations are making sure only safe food is being sold.
“It makes it more expensive for the farms,” Ferdinando said
Producers are not willing to risk jeopardizing their customers’ health, he said.
“Those places still have to be checked by the local health inspectors,” Ferdinando said.
Laura Whitlock, who runs Dawn Land Farm in Sandown with her husband, Jim, raised chickens for years but now focuses on her goat herd.
Whitlock said the new law is beneficial to farms and their customers. It also and promotes local agriculture and food safety, she said.
“I think it’s great for local farms,” Whitlock said. “It’s great for keeping food in the community and a safeguard for food safety. You are not dealing with large slaughterhouses.”