SENATE ENVIRONMENT AND ENERGY COMMITTEE
SENATE, No. 3026
with committee amendments
STATE OF NEW JERSEY
DATED: march 13, 2017
The Senate Environment and Energy Committee favorably reports Senate Bill No. 3026 with committee amendments.
This bill would clarify and expand liability protections for food donations and gleaning activities.
Under the federal “Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act,” (42 U.S.C. s.1791) and existing State law, P.L.1982, c.178 (C.24:4A-1 et seq.), donors of food and organizations that receive and distribute the food to needy individuals are immune from civil and criminal liability arising from the food, provided certain requirements are met. These laws also provide liability protection to farmers who permit the collection or gleaning of agricultural food on their land. While these laws provide a good baseline of liability protection, some concern over liability still exists due to ambiguities in the federal and State laws. Additionally, individuals, farmers, and organizations may be unaware of the liability protections that exist for food donations, gleaning, and other related activities.
This bill would define the term “donate” in existing State law to mean “to provide food free of charge or for a fee sufficient only to cover the cost of storing, transporting, or otherwise handling the food.” This provision would, in effect, permit nonprofit organizations to recover the cost of handling donated food and perhaps allow for innovative approaches to sell surplus food at deeply reduced prices, such as “social supermarkets.” The bill would provide liability protections to public and nonpublic schools donating food. The bill would also clarify that a donor or gleaner of food may donate the food directly to needy individuals, as opposed to just nonprofit organizations. This measure would increase efficiency and enable the timely use of perishable food.
The bill would specify that the State’s liability protections apply to food that is past its “best by” or other open date, but is still fit for human consumption. Current federal and State laws are silent as to whether post-date food is eligible for liability protection, and clarifying that it is eligible would ensure that less food goes to waste. The bill would also specify that State liability protections apply regardless of compliance with any laws, rules, regulations, or ordinances regulating the quality or labeling of food. The federal liability protection law requires donated food to meet these requirements, imposing extra and unnecessary burdens on donors and nonprofit food recovery organizations.
The bill also would establish new liability protections for nonprofit organizations that organize or host volunteers on agricultural land for the purpose of collecting or gleaning agricultural food from the land for ultimate distribution to needy individuals. Lastly, in order to increase awareness of these protections, the bill would require the Department of Agriculture to prepare and publish on its Internet website a guidance document that provides information on the State and federal liability protections available for food donations, gleaning, and other related activities.
The committee amendment is technical in nature.