Panel advances Webber, Bucco bill freeing local farmers markets from burdensome regulations

Jay Webber

PARSIPPANY — The Assembly Agriculture Committee gave its approval today to legislation sponsored by Assemblymen Jay Webber and Anthony M. Bucco eliminating unnecessary and counterproductive regulations imposed on bakers selling their goods at farmers markets.

The bill (A2201) allows the products, including cakes, cookies, pies, and muffins, to be sold in wrapped or covered containers, which promotes sanitation, without being weighed.

“Requiring precise weighing for individual products at local markets is onerous and cost prohibitive,” said Webber (R-Morris). “This is an effort to make it easier for people to earn extra money without incurring significant overhead costs while at the same time ensuring the goods are safe and sanitary.”

Currently, sellers of baked goods at farmers markets are not required to provide the product’s weight when the good is out in the open or in an uncovered container.  For example, a piece of apple pie out on a plate or a loaf of bread in a basket does not require any labeling for weight.  But once sellers puts that pie under cellophane or the loaf of bread in a paper sleeve to promote sanitation and freshness, then they must put on that covered container precise weight labeling, or they are subject to fines for lack of compliance.

“Shoppers love farmers markets because they know they are getting fresh top quality products,” said Bucco (R-Morris).  “People who sell baked items at these local markets should not get caught up in red tape created by weight regulations. It’s an unfair burden. Removing this requirement will put them on equal footing with people who sell at retail shops and local bakeries since they aren’t required in those establishments.”

The weight regulation is causing problems at local farmers markets. Heavy-handed weights and measures inspectors are fining or shutting down farmer’s market vendors who comply with all other applicable health and safety regulations because they do not have the capacity to provide specific measurements on each item sold.

“Such a regulatory anomaly makes no sense for a variety of reasons,” explained Webber. “We should encourage sellers of baked goods in outdoor markets to promote sanitation and freshness, not discourage them.  Also, bakers in retail shops and local bakeries are not required to provide weight labeling when they wrap or cover the same baked goods. There’s no reason to treat bakers at farmers markets differently.”

There are more than 35 farmers markets throughout the state, according to the New Jersey Farmers Direct Marketing Association.

The Senate unanimously passed an identical bill (S410) in June 2018.

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