Success for “Smarter Rules for Farmers’ Markets” Bill

Yesterday afternoon, HB5657 – Smarter Rules For Farmers Markets – passed the Illinois House of Representatives unanimously. After considerable negotiations with local health departments, the Illinois Department of Public Health, the Illinois Public Health Association and the Illinois Farm Bureau we were able to reach an accord that removed their opposition to the bill which allowed for the kind of vote tally that makes policy people happy, 114-0-0. HB5657 is now in the Senate where we are expecting its passage will run smoothly at this point. Local food and sustainable agriculture champion and chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee Senator David Koehler of Peoria is the lead Senate sponsor. You can read the full text of the bill as amended, engrossed and passed by the House here. In summation HB5657 does 4 things:

  • Creates a timeline for Illinois Department of Public Health’s (IDPH) Farmers’ Market Task force to complete recommendations for state wide 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 statue by the general assembly in 2011. The bill gives the task force until December 15, 2014 to create their recommendations.
  • Sampling of products is critical to any food business including those at farmers markets. HB5657 bill would authorize and instruct IDPH and the farmers market task force to develop a statewide sampling certificate/license that would allow a farmer or entrepreneur to offer product samples at any farmers market in the state under one certificate/license and just as importantly under one consistent statewide set of rules.
  • “Re-sellers” are a perennial issue with farmers markets, individuals who buy produce from a wholesale market and then show up at a farmers market pretending to be actual farmers. HB5657 would require farmers market vendors that sell produce to have a small sign, label or packing slip that said where their produce was grown and if they can’t disclose that they must list where the produce was purchased from. This only applies to specialty crops i.e. not meats, eggs, dairy or value-added products.
  • Lastly this bill would cap the fees that local health departments can charge cottage food operations for registering at $25 per year. Most charge $0-25 but some outliers are charging $75, $90 and even $200. It also makes a change to the cottage food definition that allows a kitchen in an out building on someone’s residential property to be used as a cottage food kitchen.