Wisconsin Judge Crumbles State’s Cookie Ban

Published July 21, 2017

With the help of a public-interest law firm, three Wisconsin farmers successfully challenged the state’s regulations requiring baked goods made for sale to be cooked in a government-approved “food processing plant” or other commercial-grade kitchen subject to annual government inspections and licensing fees.

The law makes violations of the “cookie ban” punishable by a six-month jail sentence or cash penalties of up to $1,000.

In January 2016, the farmers—Lisa Kivirist, Kriss Marion, and Dela Ends—filed a lawsuit in the Lafayette County Circuit Court, represented by Institute for Justice (IJ), a nonprofit public-interest law firm.

Judge Duane M. Jorgenson ruled in favor of Kivirist and the other two cookie bakers on May 31.

Jorgenson has scheduled a July 26 hearing to determine whether the ruling applies only to the plaintiffs or to everyone in the state.

‘Opens More Opportunities’

Brooke Fallon, assistant director of activism at IJ, says government barriers to entrepreneurship hold back progress.

“Allowing people to start home-based baking businesses opens more opportunities for small businesses to grow, by providing a stepping stone for those who want to start small,” Fallon said. “By limiting home-based baking businesses, we could be missing out on the next Famous Amos or Cake Boss.”

These regulations burn consumers and business owners alike, Fallon says.

“Protectionism is bad for entrepreneurs, bad for customers, and bad for the economy,” Fallon said. “Occupational licenses do precisely what they are designed to do: keep people out. These licenses raise prices for customers, limit worker mobility between states, and restrict innovation.”

Who Benefits from Protectionism?

Rick Esenberg, founder and president of the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, says politically connected insiders often push for regulations to protect themselves from potential competitors.

“What happens is people who have a very intense interest in subjects which are not of a similarly intense interest to the general public, things that have to do with the particulars of an industry or an occupation, will often attempt to use the legislative process to protect themselves from competition,” Esenberg said. “They can be successful in doing so, to the extent that nobody else is paying attention and to the extent that they themselves are politically powerful.”

Public health can be a false pretense for imposing regulations benefiting special interests, Esenberg says.

“People have to understand that simply saying there is a public health justification doesn’t mean there really is one,” Esenberg said.