Every year in communities of all shapes and sizes, citizens flock to farmers markets to purchase food direct from farmers and entrepreneurs. The popularity of farmers markets and local food has grown to the point that regional planning commissions, communities and economic development organizations are consistently including local food and farmers markets as part of their long term development plans.
Despite this growth and popularity, inconsistent and inappropriate regulations have persisted as a barrier to further growth and economic success. Currently, rules and regulations governing farmers markets vary dramatically from county to county, as there are no uniform statewide regulations for farmers markets. In some counties certain practices are allowed, such as using coolers with icepacks to keep perishable items at the proper temperature, while in some counties they are not. In some counties the rules surrounding the offering of samples are very accommodating to farmers markets, in others they are inappropriate and burdensome, and in other sampling isn’t even allowed. All of which is impacting the viability of farmers markets and consumer access to local food as farmers leave markets and go to those in counties where the regulations are more accommodating.
Illinois can do better. We should be doing everything we can to support farmers markets, the jobs they create and the businesses they incubate. HB5657/SB3380 sponsored by Representative Mike Tryon and Senator David Koehler creates a process to address the larger issue of inconsistency by setting clear timelines for the Illinois Department of Public Health’s Farmers Market Task Force to address its original purpose to help develop statewide administrative rules for farmers markets. In addition, HB5657/SB3380 would also create a new and exciting statewide sampling at farmers market license, product origin transparency requirements for produce sold at farmers markets, so consumers know where the produce they are buying comes from; and changes to Illinois’ Cottage Food law that addresses some county to county inconsistencies that have emerged.
HB5657/SB3380 is a major step forward in creating risk and scale appropriate regulations for farmers markets that will improve consumer access to locally produced food, support farmers markets as a whole and the farmers and entrepreneurs that call them home.
For maximum effectiveness... REPLACE THE WORDS "MY LOCAL" in the first line of the letter with the name of the farmers market at which you shop. Adding your personal story and changing the subject line will further help your note get noticed.
This alert is hosted for the Illinois Stewardship Alliance.