Final farmers’ market bill ‘workable,’ according to Clayton market master

By Kari Williams

After months of negotiation and compromise, the County Council approved a measure regulating farmers’ markets.

Sixth District Councilman Steve Stenger, D- Affton, said the approved ordinance had many changes and recognized the various stakeholders involved.

“I think the ultimate goal that came down was more reflective than the initial bill of what the county needs for regulation of farmers markets,” he told the Call.

Just about every concern raised about the bill was addressed, according to Stenger, and the “vast majority” are in favor of the operators of the markets.

“I think a nice balance was struck,” Stenger said.

Clayton Market Master Deb Henderson said she is pleased the bill was approved before the farmers’ market season begins.

“We have a lot of vendors, this is their livelihood. Whether they’re a farmer or a food vendor, they all want to get started … and a number of them can’t really begin until they get their health permit,” she said.

Farmers’ market vendor permits were decreased from $35 for a 14-day period to $50 for one location and $30 per location for a second through fifth location with a $193 cap for “six or more farmers’ market locations with concurrent operating dates,” according to the ordinance. Seasonal food establishments also are limited to between 15 and 120 days of attending farmers’ markets within any permit year.

In the new measure, extra permit fees are eliminated, according to Henderson, and vendors pay one fee if selling their products at one market.

The bill also allows Missouri farmers to be exempt from permitting and licensing fees, she said.

“We asked them to put that into the laws that Missouri farmers are exempt form paying those fees, according to state law, and they’ve done that,” Henderson said.

Henderson said there was some lobbying against the farmers’ markets by the Missouri Grocers Association.

“They filed a complaint with (the Department of Health) against the farmers’ market,” Henderson said. “One of the reasons small food vendors are now limited to 120 days of farmers market attending a year is because of that lobbying.”

One of Henderson’s concerns was that original wording on the draft held market managers liable for the compliance of all vendors under the food code. That wording was removed, Henderson said, but market managers are still liable for compliance of the market site.

Stenger said he believes Henderson’s concerns about market manager liability were addressed fairly.

“First, I think that any potential liability of a market manager is going to be very small and very rare … Somebody has to be responsible for the market, and that’s how you ensure the safety of the public, the health and safety of the public,” Stenger said.

The councilman also said the regulations and requirements in the final ordinance are “fairly customary requirements.”

“I don’t think the regulations impose too much of a burden on market managers who need to be responsible for the market in any event,” he said.

Overall, Henderson said the bill is “workable.”

“We’re excited for the simpler process of applying for permits and the lower fees for the majority of our vendors and farmer exemption,” Henderson said. “I think we’ll get into the season and see how it all works out, and I hope that the department remains open to feedback about how it’s all working.”