California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill that would raise fees for certified farmers markets to pay for more inspectors.
Beginning Jan. 1, the state fees paid by vendors would jump to $2 per day from 60 cents, according to a news release.
In addition, Assembly Bill 1871 extends the fees to non-agricultural vendors selling food and craft items.
Altogether, it would raise $1.35 million annually of which more than $1 million would be new revenues.
The funds will be used mainly to hire new state inspectors and reimburse counties for local investigative work. The money also will be used to maintain a database of markets and growers.
Currently, California has more than 7,000 certified markets.
Another major change contained in the bill is vendors will no longer be allowed to sell "fresh whole fruits, nuts, vegetables and flowers" in adjacent non-agricultural sections of the market.
Noncertified flower vendors are some of the most common.
Depending on how state regulators interpret the law, mushroom resellers such as David West and LA Funghi may be excluded from the markets unless they restructure to become growers.
Noncertified vendors of juices and dried fruits will not be affected.
In California, producers of fresh fruits, nuts, vegetables, shell eggs, honey, flowers and nursery stock must obtain a certified producers’ certificate before selling at a certified farmers market.
The regulations explicity state, "The producer must have produced such commodities by the practice of the agricultural arts upon land, which the producer farms, owns, rents, leases or sharecrops.
Then only the "producer or the producers’ parents, children, grandparents and grandchildren or a relative regularly residing in the producer’s household or an employee of the producer may sell the producer’s products at the market," according to the regulations.
The regulations are designed to prevent people from going to wholesale or terminal markets, buying produce, and then passing it off at a certified farmers market as their own.
The bill also will require growers to post conspicuous signs with the name and location of their farm. The sign also must state "We grow what we sell."
The wording is supposed to make cheating more of a clear-cut violation.
The bill crates a new misdemeanor—making false statements about the grower, growing area or growing practices of agricultural products punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 and imprisonment of up to six months.
The bill comes after well-publicized instances of cheating at Los Angeles County farmers markets in 2012.
That county's agricultural commissioner beefed up enforcement. Since then, inspectors have issued 66 citations for cheating, resulting in multiple fines totalling up to $6,600 per vendors.
In addition, 16 vendor licenses were either suspended or proposed for suspension.