News from Brian Snyder, Executive Director of PASA, about two upcoming information sessions for farmers’ market managers and vendors, March 16 in Exton; March 21 in Gibsonia, and via webinar:
Last year, while food safety legislation was moving through Congress in Washington, another bill was concurrently working its way through our state legislature here in Pennsylvania. The effects of the state legislation will not be as far-reaching as what happened on the federal level, but we will notice many of the state changes much more quickly.
A case in point are changes that affect the way farmers markets are regulated with respect to food safety, and some of you expressed tremendous concern when you first began to hear about these changes over the last few weeks. Because of those concerns, PASA got involved directly with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to resolve some issues immediately, and also to invite PDA officials to listen to other concerns being raised by farmers and market managers across the state. We have found folks at PDA to be very receptive and willing to work with us in this ongoing process . . . following is the statement they developed for use in communications with our members and others:
“On January 22, 2011 Pennsylvania’s new food safety law took effect, putting in place more uniform, statewide requirements for those who are in the food industry. With the passage of Act 106 of 2010 come changes that have the potential to impact vendors at the state’s more than 1,200 farmers markets. To ensure that those growers and processors who take advantage of the state’s strong network of direct-to-consumer opportunities have an understanding of the changes and are able to comply with the law, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture will host informational meetings to review Act 106 and the new requirements that exist for some farmers market vendors.
The focus of the meetings will be on the change in licensing of farmers markets. The new law calls for each stand to be individually licensed, which is a change from previous years. While those stands that sell only raw, unprocessed products (fruits and vegetables that have not been processed) are exempt from licensing requirements, other vendors will have to secure licenses in advance of the 2011 farmers market season. This meeting will cover the new licensing requirements and give farmers market participants the opportunity to ask questions about licensing and inspections.”
As a result of our conversations with PDA, PASA will be co-hosting with them two sessions in the coming weeks that are detailed in a flyer posted on our website. Please read this flyer, and feel free to download and print it for sharing with your friends who may not be receiving this email for any reason. We need your help in getting the word out about these meetings!
In addition to the in-person meetings, a webinar will be hosted in conjunction with the Chester County event, which can be accessed by anyone with a computer and phone . . . we will forward additional information about how that may be accessed in the coming days. But I do want to emphasize that your best opportunity to ask questions and raise concerns in general will be realized if you actually attend one of the two scheduled meetings.
At this point in the process, we have legislation that has been enacted, but new regulations in support of that legislation have not been written or approved. That means the “rules” being developed now will exist as published “guidelines” until real regulations can be implemented. It also means that now is the time to get involved, ask questions and help us to find ways to assure that the new legislation will be helpful to your endeavors rather than harmful. PASA will remain engaged throughout this entire process, but we’re only as strong as our collective membership that shows its concern for the issues involved. I personally plan to attend both scheduled meetings, and hope to see very many of you there in attendance!
As always, thanks for your ongoing support of PASA and our efforts to make food systems in Pennsylvania, and beyond, more sustainable.