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Vendors should be held to certain legal requirements-for instance, that farmers selling produce actually grow the produce themselves.
Farmers’ markets may be ubiquitous in California, but shoppers sauntering down to their local market after a nice Sunday brunch may not realize-or, rather, may blindly trust-that vendors are held to certain legal requirements-for instance, that farmers selling produce actually grow the produce themselves.
According to media outlet KQED, a new bill in California, AB 1871, aims to crack down on farmers’ market fraud.
Specifically, the bill would make it possible to impose criminal charges on farmers making false claims, such as advertising that their produce is organic, when in fact it is not, or that produce is “California grown,” when in fact it is purchased from a third party elsewhere.
According to the text of AB 1871, “The bill would require vendors of agricultural products selling within a certified farmers’ market to comply with specified signage and labeling requirements, and would make those representations subject to criminal, civil, and administrative penalties, as specified. By creating a new crime, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program. The bill would repeal provisions authorizing an aggrieved certified producer to submit a request to the Department of Food and Agriculture for an advisory opinion, and for the department to issue the advisory opinion, and would repeal provisions requiring the department to provide for an informal hearing process for grievances relating to certified farmers’ markets.”
Notably, the bill would raise the current 60-cent stall fee for farmers to $2. That money does not go into the pocket of the farmers’ market organizer, however; instead, the funds will be used to pay state inspectors to more heavily investigate and enforce against farmers’ market fraud. According to David Karp, a fruit expert interviewed by KQED, the fee hike will raise somewhere around $1.4 million per year.
If approved, the bill would become effective January 1, 2015. The bill not only applies to produce farmers but also to those who sell ancillary farmers’ market products, such as popcorn and other cooked fare.
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