Illinois General Assembly approves Smarter Rules for Farmers Markets

The Illinois Senate unanimously approved legislation (HB 5657) last week that will result in smarter, streamlined and statewide rules for food sanitation at farmers markets. HB 5657 was unanimously approved by the Illinois House of Representatives earlier this year. Following the Senate’s approval the legislation will be sent to the Governor’s desk for his signature.

“This is a really important step when it comes to supporting farmers markets and community development. Regional planning commissions, communities and economic development organizations are consistently including local food and farmers markets in their long term plans. As a state, we should be doing everything we can to support the growing local food and sustainable agriculture sector, and that is exactly what this legislation does.” said Wes King Executive Director of Illinois Stewardship Alliance.

Illinois Stewardship Alliance has been working along side the Illinois Environmental Council, local health departments, the Illinois Department of Public Health, and the Illinois Public Health Association to develop HB5657.

The legislation, sponsored by Representative Mike Tryon (R-Crystal Lake) and State Senator David Koehler (D-Peoria), includes a number of provisions aimed at supporting and sustaining farmers markets and the farmers and vendors that call them home:

  • Product Origin and Transparency Provisions – requires farmers market vendors that sell unprocessed produce and/or raw agricultural commodities to have a small sign, label, or packing slip that states the address where their products were physically grown. If they can’t disclose that, they must list where it was purchased from.

  • Consistent Statewide Farmers Market Rules – creates a timeline for Illinois Department of Public Health’s (IDPH) Farmers’ Market Task Force to complete recommendations for statewide rules and regulations for farmers markets and strengthens that task force’s authority and process for developing and finalizing said rules and regulations. The task force was originally created in statute by the general assembly in 2011. The bill gives the task force until December 15, 2014 to create their recommendations.

  • Statewide Sampling Program – Sampling of products is critical to any food business including those at farmers markets. HB 5657 authorizes and instructs IDPH and the farmers market task force to develop a statewide sampling certificate program that would allow a farmer or entrepreneur to offer product samples at any farmers market in the state under one certificate, and just as importantly, under one consistent statewide set of rules.

  • Cottage Food Operations – Caps the fee that local health departments can charge cottage food operations for registering at $25 per year.

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PrairiErth Farms, one of many local farms positively affected by the new legislation, sells their local produce at the Downtown Bloomington Farmers' Market

PrairiErth Farms, one of many local farms positively affected by the new legislation, sells their local produce at the Downtown Bloomington Farmers’ Market