Governor Signs Legislation to Support Farmers and Home Producers on State Fair Agriculture Day

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

August 16, 2011. In honor of Agriculture Day at the Illinois State Fair, Governor Pat Quinn today signed three pieces of legislation to support Illinois’ agriculture industry and increase access to farmers’ markets for the growing cottage food industry. Senate Bill 840 allows certain homemade foods to be sold at Illinois farmers’ markets, and Senate Bill 1852 creates a task force to recommend statewide farmers’ market regulations. The Governor also signed House Bill 3244 requiring the state to develop a plan for increasing agriculture-related tourism opportunities in Illinois.

“The best way to celebrate Illinois’ agricultural strength is by making it easier for Illinois residents to buy fresh foods and support farmers and local economies,” Governor Quinn said. “Farmers’ markets allow us to buy fresh, healthy produce and other homemade goods directly from the people who make them, and this legislation will enable those business owners to sell directly to consumers while making sure safety standards are consistent for all markets throughout the state.” 

The popularity of farmers’ markets has surged in recent years, and a lack of consistent regulation at the increasing number of markets has created confusion about how products may be sold. Senate Bill 1852, sponsored by Sen. David Luechtefeld (R-Okawville) and Rep. Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro), creates a task force to review the rules and laws defining what products can be sold at farmers’ markets, as well as sanitation and food preparation requirements. The 24-member task force will then assist the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) in developing and implementing administrative rules ensuring consistent statewide farmers’ market regulations.

Senate Bill 840, sponsored by Sen. David Koehler (D-Peoria) and Rep. Lisa M. Dugan (D-Kankakee), allows homemade foods like jams, cookies and cakes to be sold at farmers’ markets. Cottage food vendors must meet the following conditions for their products to be sold at Illinois’ farmers’ markets:

·         Foods, such as baked goods, preserves, dry herbs or teas, must be safe for consumption;

·         Food is sold only at a farmers’ market;

·         Seller does no more than $25,000 a year in sales;

·         Follows specific labeling requirements;

·         The cottage food operation is registered with the local health department;

·         The person preparing and selling the food has a valid Illinois Food Service Sanitation Manager Certificate; and

·         A placard that states, “This product was produced in a home kitchen not subject to public health inspection that may also process common food allergens” is located where the food is sold.

Under House Bill 3244, sponsored by Rep. Kay Hatcher (R-Yorkville) and Sen. Kirk W. Dillard (R-Westmont), the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) will develop and implement a statewide strategic plan to increase agricultural tourism. This builds upon existing efforts by the Quinn administration to strengthen Illinois’ agri-tourism industry.

DCEO and the Illinois Department of Agriculture have a long-standing partnership with the Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Association (IGGVA) to promote the Illinois wine industry. Through the state’s tourism site, www.EnjoyIllinois.com, visitors can learn more about the dozens of wineries and other natural and agriculture-related attractions nestled throughout the state. DCEO also assists in marketing agri-tourism tours that have been created among its industry partners, both domestically and internationally, and promotes the use of locally grown foods in its marketing efforts.

Senate Bill 1852 and House Bill 3244 go into effect immediately and Senate Bill 840 takes effect Jan. 1.