The state legislature has approved and sent to Gov. Quinn a bill to streamline food sanitation regulations at farmers markets.

HB 5657 was approved unanimously by the state Senate last week, following unanimous approval by the House last month.

“This is a really important step when it comes to supporting farmers markets and community development,” Wes King, executive director of the Illinois Stewardship Alliance said in a statement. “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.”

The legislation:

  • Requires farmers market vendors selling 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.
  • Requires the Illinois Department of Public Health Farmers’ Market Task Force to complete recommendations for statewide rules and regulations for farmers markets by Dec. 15 and strengthens the task force’s authority and process for developing the rules. The task force was originally created in statute by the general assembly in 2011.
  • Orders the state health department 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 a consistent statewide set of rules.
  • Caps the fee that local health departments can charge cottage food operations for registering at $25 per year.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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