from the inbox:
Shapiro, Richards question county regs on farmers' markets
Abington, PA (May 9, 2011) - Josh Shapiro and Leslie Richards, the Democratic candidates for Montgomery County commissioner, have sent a letter to the county health department on behalf of county farmers' markets urging the county to reconsider new regulations, which "go beyond" what the state Department of Agriculture requires.
The Montgomery County Commissioners are expected to address the new regulations at their weekly meeting on Wednesday at 10 a.m.
In their letter to Director of Health Dr. Joseph M. DiMino, Shapiro and Richards said, "Like you, we are committed to revitalizing our communities and helping to provide safe access to locally produced meats, fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, a number of the new county regulations threaten the livelihood of many vendors and put the markets in our county at a competitive disadvantage with surrounding counties."
The letter also said that the new regulations "will likely prohibit many vendors from participating in markets in Montgomery County."
Shapiro and Richards said that the "most burdensome" regulations are those requiring "significant physical upgrades at each vendor station along with hefty permitting fees."
While there are a multitude of new regulations in Montgomery County, the most controversial and damaging to the future viability of the markets are:
A requirement for a vendor to have a portable, hot-water sink on site (costs range from $750 to $1500), if they are handling any unpackaged food. This would include a vendor offering sample of fruits, or a winery offering samples in disposable cups.
A requirement of a $100 permitting fee for every market at which a vendor participates, instead of a single fee to do business at Montgomery County markets. Some vendors participate in several markets.
In recent news reports, vendors have claimed that these regulations alone would "overwhelm" annual sales.
Shapiro and Richards ask DiMino to join with them in creating "an environment where farmers' markets can thrive in Montgomery County by creating regulations that support farmers and our local economy, while ensuring customers have a safe and enjoyable shopping experience."