Food Safety Guidelines and the Farm Direct Bill

The Farm Direct Bill is effective as of January 1, 2012. An administrative rule spelling out more details was finalized in June of 2012, just short of a year after the governor signed the bill.

Passage of the Farm Direct Bill means we now have a firmer legal situation for farmers’ markets in Oregon.  Farmers’ markets, CSA drop sites, church bazaars -- and any other place that provides space to farmers but does not itself engage in buying and selling food -- are clearly not subject to regulation as food establishments or produce peddlers.

Most of the Farm Direct Bill is about what farmers can sell directly with and without a license. Some provisions in the law simply put into law policies that ODA has followed for decades, like not regulating farm direct sale of fresh produce other than to require scale licenses if product is to be weighed.

OFMA worked with ODA to write a Frequently Asked Questions document with charts that is organized so that ODA, farmers’ markets and others who work with our farmers can more easily answer questions about what does and does not require a license.

In some cases, the new law does allow products to be sold without a license that would have been licensed in prior years – and which still must be licensed if the seller is not the grower, or if the products otherwise do not fit the provisions of the law.

In a couple of instances, the law actually gets a bit more restrictive:  unlicensed eggs and honey now require a disclaimer similar to that required for some newly deregulated items.

Market organizations may want to discuss their guidelines regarding if, when and how resale is permitted at the markets they operate. This is more a matter of enhancing our customers' safety through transparency and traceability than a matter of law. The Governor and ODA have proposed repeal of the little-used produce peddler law and related laws on cash buyers and wholesale produce dealers.

Policy decisions that market organizations should discuss

For which product categories will this market REQUIRE vendors to carry product liability insurance? Some farmers’ markets require product liability insurance of all vendors, and other markets pick out categories of product that must have insurance. Risks are not equal across the range of market products. On the other hand, carrying insurance is a good practice that protects vendors, if the costs of doing so are not prohibitive.

Will the addition of new farm-direct products encouraged by the new law point this market toward allowing fewer processed foods that are NOT farm direct? Markets moving in this direction need to notify affected vendors before they spend money on materials.

Does this market want to prohibit any of them? OFMA is not recommending that farmers’ markets actually ban newly deregulated products but recognizes that market organizations retain control of their product mix.

How should markets communicate with farmers about the new law? Markets should use the FAQ with charts to educate vendors. OFMA will work with OSU Extension to provide additional opportunities. If there are any market-specific decisions connected to the changes, those need to be communicated locally.

Is there food safety training that markets can recommend to market vendors considering products like jams, preserves, syrups and pickles? Master food preserver classes cover many of the products in the Farm Direct Bill, plus others that can never be sold without a license, like low-acid foods. Some counties offer community food preservation classes that might be a good fit. Eventually, we hope OSU Extension will be able to adapt materials from other states with similar laws. OSU offers a two-day Acidified Foods School for $350 and a four-day Better Process Control School for $600. Applicability depends in part on the product, but these classes go well beyond the needs of farmers experimenting under the new law.

How will customers understand their choices? 
The law requires a disclaimer on certain products, including jams, preserves, pickles, grains, honey and eggs so that customers know they were not made in a licensed facility. The disclaimer for honey and eggs is slightly different than the one for other products.

More information on Food Safety and Farmers' Markets

Seasonal Temporary Restaurants and Food Carts Regulation
ODA Food Safety
Weights & Measures
Oregon Farmers' Market Guide (Measurement Standards)