Farmers markets continue to grow as opportune sources of fresh and healthy food throughout the country with approximately 8,600 farmers markets in the United States.
Local producers can benefit from farmers markets which provide a venue for direct-to-consumer sales and marketing support. These markets contribute to the local food systems and create opportunities for building relationships between consumers and producers. Farmers markets also provide residents with access to fresh and healthy foods.
State policymakers are considering legislation related to farmers markets such as appropriating funding, addressing food safety needs and supporting the use of nutrition programs. Statewide approaches to local food systems such as food policy councils and state procurement preferences can also impact farmers markets.
2021 State Legislative Update
At least 27 states enacted 50 bills concerning farmers markets in 2021. These bills focus on several policy issues including increasing accessibility, supporting farmers and addressing cottage foods.
At least 15 states appropriated funds to support farmers markets. For example, Illinois appropriated funds for the state farmers market nutrition programs. Georgia enacted legislation to create a legislative advisory committee for farmers market oversight and to develop a five-year plan to maximize the public benefit of farmers markets. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Virginia passed a bill deeming farmers markets essential during a state of emergency.
2020 State Legislative Update
At least 38 bills related to farmers markets were enacted in 2020. Eight states— Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Virginia —appropriated funds to support the development, renovation and maintenance or promotion of farmers markets. North Carolina and Vermont enacted legislation to provide aid to farmers market operators through the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund. Fifteen states— Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia —enacted legislation supporting or expanding the ability to use nutrition program benefits, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Program, at farmers markets.
Three states enacted legislation related to the sale of specialty items at farmers markets. Iowa allowed for the sale of wild mushrooms. Maine allowed the sale of rabbit meat. New Hampshire established a committee to study the licensure of individuals who forage wild mushrooms.
Oklahoma SB 1785 sets standards for farmers markets and farmers hubs that are registered with the state Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry. Hubs are a new business model in the state that allows producers to sell their products on a consignment basis versus at a farmers market where the producer must be present.