CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn today signed legislation that will create uniform, statewide standards to regulate farmers’ markets and help increase protections for consumers who shop locally. Today’s action is part of Governor Quinn’s agenda to protecting and improving the health of the people of Illinois.
“This new law will encourage people across Illinois to get out and buy local,” Governor Quinn said. “Farmers’ markets offer uniquely local goods and we need to ensure they are safe for all Illinois shoppers. Establishing statewide standards for farmers’ markets will help vendors and consumers know what to expect no matter where they sell or buy produce in the state.”
House Bill 5657, sponsored by State Representative Michael Tryon (R-Crystal Lake) and State Senator David Koehler (D-Peoria), directs the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) to set rules and regulations regarding food sampling and testing at farmers’ markets throughout Illinois. This will lead to easier navigation of farmers’ markets by consumers and increased compliance among vendors. The bill requires vendors to inform consumers of the origin of specialty crops or raw agricultural products and limits the fee local health departments can charge for monitoring farmers’ markets to $25. The legislation is effective immediately.
“Farmers’ markets can help fill a gap and provide fresh foods in areas considered food deserts, where fruits and vegetables are not readily available,” IDPH Director Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck said. “But we want to make sure foods sold at farmers’ markets are safe and don’t cause illness from accidental bacterial contamination, like salmonella. Standardized regulations will help local health departments conduct food inspections and increase compliance among vendors. This will enhance food safety at farmer’s markets and help inspectors identify products that may be contaminated and causing illness.”
“This law will benefit the small- and medium-sized farms that grow most of our specialty crops,” Illinois Department of Agriculture Director Bob Flider said. “The uniform market standards it establishes will raise confidence in our food system, and as that trust grows, so, too, will demand for our fresh fruits and vegetables.”
Illinois ranks third in the nation for number of farmers' markets, with more than 375 known markets in 2013. Only California and New York have more.
“Farmers markets are such an important link between the people who truly grow our food and the consumers,” Senator Koehler, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, said. “Creating a single, statewide standard will make it easier for more farmers to participate in more markets.”
Governor Quinn has long worked to support the safe handling and sale of food products in Illinois and has signed legislation designating the first Saturday of each month at “Eat Local, Buy Illinois Products Day.” The Governor has also signed into law the Farmers’ Market Technology Improvement Program Act which allows individuals to use LINK cards to purchase fresh fruits, vegetables and other items at farmers markets across the state as well as legislation creating a uniform standard for cottage food operations to prepare and sell their products at farmers markets in Illinois.