Newsmakers, June 29, 2017

Air Date:
Heard On Newsmakers
muffins in a tray
Steven Lilley (CC-BY-SA)  

A month after a Wisconsin judge ruled in favor of bakers who sued for the right to sell homemade baked goods, there is still some confusion if the decision applies to everyone in the state.

An attorney who represented three Lafayette County women who won the case said she’s asking Lafayette County Circuit Court Judge Duane Jorgenson to clarify the ruling and say it stands for anyone who wants to sell homemade baked goods in Wisconsin.

“That’s how we’re interpreting the ruling, but the state disagrees. And the state believes that the ruling just applies to the three plaintiffs in this case,” said attorney Erica Smith with the Institute for Justice, who argued the lawsuit on behalf of the women. “That’s currently being resolved by the court right now. It has yet to be decided.”

Wisconsin and New Jersey have been the only states in the nation that don’t have a law allowing home bakers a chance to sell their products.

Complicating the issue, the Wisconsin Legislature can’t come to an agreement on allowing home-baked products to be sold face-to-face at farmer’s markets and other public events.

The Wisconsin Senate has passed three bills since 2013 that the state Assembly has failed to act on. This session’s Senate version would raise the amount of product allowed to be sold to $25,000, in line with what bakers in neighboring states are allowed to sell.

State Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, R-River Falls, has introduced all three Senate bills, and said she looks forward to the judge clarifying the ruling.

“When I hear that the interpretation is that it would only affect these three individuals, that simply does not seem to make a whole lot of sense to have them operating under a different set of laws than others,” she said.

Harsdorf said ultimately it’s the Legislature’s job to make the laws and she hopes the court ruling will inspire members of the Assembly to consider a bill.

A bill has yet to be introduced in the Assembly, but Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, has drafted a bill that would eliminate licensing of all bakeries in Wisconsin.

One of the lawsuit’s plaintiffs said home bakers are not a threat to big business, but allowing them to profit off what they can create in their kitchen will allow them to make a little more money, especially in rural parts of Wisconsin that are struggling financially.

“I’m a grandma. I bake cookies for my grandchildren, said Broadhead farmer Dela Ends. “It doesn’t make any sense. We’ve baked treats for kids in school all our lives. We’ve had bake sales for fundraisers, for 4-H and all the different things we’re involved in, and that’s legal. But if I want to go to the farmer’s market and sell something I’ve baked, that’s not legal.”

The Wisconsin Department of Justice is considering an appeal of the circuit court’s ruling. Smith said she expects to know if the decision will be appealed by the end of August.

– John Davis

Episode Credits

  • Hope Kirwan Host
  • John Davis Producer
  • Sheila Harsdorf Guest
  • Erica Smith Guest
  • Dela Ends Guest