Two licenses required this season for Oklahoma farmer markets

Thursday, May 8th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ People selling prepared and packaged foods at farmers' markets in Oklahoma will need two licenses this season.

The state Health Department licenses will be required for the first time since the 1980s, when the agency adopted a policy to forgive farmers' market sellers from a state law requiring retail licensing.

Ted Evans, director of the Health Department's consumer protection division, said the new emphasis on farmers' markets will mean double-licensing for sellers of packaged products.

``State law says if you sell food, you have to have a license,'' Evans said. ``For this year, until we can have a rule change, we have to have a license on both ends (processing and selling).

``We plan to work with the industry and the Food Advisory Council to ... hopefully get to a point where we won't have to have two licenses. For this season, we're bound by our own rules.''

Evans said the new emphasis on licensing is a result of the change in farmers' markets.

``People grew their own produce and came to the farmers' markets to sell it,'' he said. ``Now, we've moved into the next century and farmers markets have expanded into a broader product base. A lot of farmers' markets hadn't been looked at for years because we thought of them as the traditional farmers' markets.''

People who still raise their own produce and sell it fresh at farmers' markets are not affected by licensing, Evans said.

He also said there is a new policy on selling meat. Meat previously could be sold from a vendor's stand at a farmers' market, but the meat now must be sold from a refrigerated truck or van.

The truck or van can be parked at point of sale, or a sample of the meat can be used to take orders, but ``they can't park that truck and take the meat 200 or 300 yards to their table to sell it,'' Evans said.

Doug Walton, president of the Oklahoma Farmers Market Alliance, said the Health Department's move could discourage many small producers.

``Especially newer growers and producers, when they're just trying to get started,'' he said. ``I know this is not consistent with what the Agriculture Department will tell you. Customers are interested in finding high-quality locally produced foods _ baked goods, jams, jelly, sauces, pickles.

``Anyone selling those types of foods are not allowed to sell unless those items are processed in a certified kitchen facility. You're not allowed to show up with home-canned goods.''

Producers perceive the move as a ``new layer of fees and permits and licenses that are not going to result in any increase in food safety,'' Walton said.