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Supporting Farmers and Local Food Economies

States have enacted legislation to make it easier for producers to sell at farmers markets. Farmers markets allow farmers to increase retail sales with low costs and help meet the demand for local food. Local regulations and low profits can make it challenging for producers to maintain market operations. Therefore, states are reducing the barriers to entry such as sales taxes for farmers markets to promote locally grown food.   

2021 Related Enacted Legislation

  • West Virginia HB 2633: Reduces barriers for farmers market participants throughout the state. Sets guidelines for farmers markets and vendors. Prohibits local health departments from requiring a farmers market or vendor to obtain a food establishment permit.    
  • Virginia HB 342: Prohibits tax from being levied on food and beverages sold at farmers markets when the annual income of sellers does not exceed $2,500.  

Accessibility and Nutrition Programs

States have enacted legislation to improve the accessibility of farmers markets for lower-income residents. Farmers markets can be particularly inaccessible for recipients of public assistance since electronic benefit transfer cards are not always accepted. As a result, many Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients do not have access to a source of fresh and healthy foods. States have attempted to make farmers markets more accessible for public assistance recipients.   

States have also promoted farmers markets for specific groups such as seniors or women and children. The WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program issues recipients of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children with additional farmers market coupons in addition to standard WIC benefits. Meanwhile, the Seniors Farmers Market Nutrition Program allows seniors to receive additional benefits to use at farmers markets.   

Some states employ the double-up bucks program to encourage lower-income residents to purchase goods from farmers markets with a dollar-for-dollar match. These programs allow SNAP recipients to double their SNAP dollars by having farmers markets match every dollar spent to a certain extent. Thus, the programs double the value of local and fresh foods to incentivize lower-income residents to shop at farmers markets. The Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program also helps facilitate access to farmers markets and nutritious foods by providing grants to participating households.   

At least 15 states appropriated funds in 2021 to support farmers markets and increase accessibility for recipients of public assistance. States appropriated funds directly to specific farmers markets while others provided funding for programs such as farmers market nutrition programs. 

 2021 Related Enacted Legislation

  • Hawaii SB 512: Expands the Double Up Food Bucks program to make healthy foods sold at farmers markets more accessible for families by removing the $10 daily maximum per visit.  
  • Missouri HB 432: Establishes a pilot program to increase the accessibility of farmers markets for SNAP recipients. Allows recipients to receive a dollar-for-dollar match for every snap dollar spent at participating farmers markets.  
  • New York SB 2503: Appropriates funds to plan a farmers market for Walkway Over Hudson. Appropriates funds to support the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program.  

Cottage Foods and Food Freedom Acts

Cottage foods are produced in a home kitchen and are sold directly to the consumer. These foods do not face licensing or inspection because they are non-hazardous with a low risk of causing foodborne illnesses. Expanding cottage food provisions can reduce barriers to entry for local producers. Restrictions on cottage foods vary by state. States have different specifications for the types of food that can be sold, where the food can be sold and labeling requirements.   

Maine, North Dakota, Utah and Wyoming have enacted Food Freedom Acts which are broader than typical cottage foods laws and exempt home producers from food safety laws (e.g., licensing, permitting, inspection) and allow direct sale to the consumer.   

2021 Related Enacted Legislation

  • Arkansas HB 1118: Allows cottage foods to be sold over the internet. Exempts cottage food sales over the internet from the definition of food service establishment.  
  • Alabama SB 160: Defines cottage foods. Permits cottage food producers to sell directly to customers in person, by phone, or online. Requires certain information on the label of cottage foods. Requires cottage food producers to complete a food safety course.  
  • Minnesota SF 958: Exempts home-processed pet treats from state agriculture provisions.  
  • Arkansas SB 248: Creates the Food Freedom Act. Exempts producers of homemade food and drink products from inspection, certification and licensing.  

Federal Action

The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, also known as the 2018 Farm Bill, was enacted to modify and implement agricultural and food programs throughout the country. The act allows farmers markets to use multiple electronic benefit transfer point-of-sale devices for SNAP benefits. Additionally, the act continues funding for the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program. The act reauthorized grants for states to support local farmers markets and created the Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP) to promote farmers markets and local foods.   

The LAMP covers both the Farmers Market Promotion Program and the Local Food Promotion Program as well as the Regional Food System Partnership and the Value-Added Producer Grants Program. These programs provide competitive grant funding to eligible entities such as businesses, nonprofit corporations, regional farmers market authorities and tribal governments.  

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