Stand Up For Farmers Markets! Help Us Challenge Proposed Huge Fee Increases By King County Health Department!

BusyGoldenSunSunday2 Imagine your Ballard Farmers Market without eggs, pickles, fish or cheese. When Public Health - Seattle & King County recently announced that they want to increase permitting fees in 2015 up to 300% for vendors, and more than double the fees for the markets themselves -- fees they just increased by 500% two years ago -- many markets and farmers in the King County farmers market community openly began asking, how much longer can we afford to be in this business?

While maybe the first sentence is the extreme, imagine if just one egg farmer quit Ballard Farmers Market. Anyone who buys eggs already knows how early you have to get here to get eggs on Sunday. Eliminating just one of our egg farmers would make it even worse! And we have already been told by one egg farmer that they will consider quitting if these fees go through.

And it's not like Public Health has been dealing with a rash of food-borne illnesses caused by farmers markets. In fact, there have been none. Inspections in 2013 and 2014 show a dramatic decrease in violations of health codes at farmers markets, so one would think the cost to the Department would be decreasing, not increasing.

That's why we need your help... right now! We need you to make public comments on this proposed fee increase before December 10th. And we'd appreciate you joining us at one of three public meetings on these fee increases scheduled over the next two weeks. (Please scroll down to see the press release from our Market Master.)

To comment:

Please submit comments to King County Board of Health at: Maria.Wood@kingcounty.gov. Comments can be made to Public Health online at www.kingcounty.gov/healthservices/health/ehs/fees/proposal.aspx.

To attend a public meeting near you:

Thursday, November 13th 9:00 – 10:30 am Phinney Center, room 6, blue building* 6532 Phinney Ave N Seattle, WA 98103 Map:  https://goo.gl/maps/MZLxV *this room is accessible by elevator

Thursday, November 13th 6:30 – 8:00 pm Rainier Community Center, Multi-purpose room 4600 38th Avenue S Seattle, WA 98118 Map:  https://goo.gl/maps/jqoLg

Wednesday, November 19th 6:30 – 8:00 pm Kent Senior Center 600 East Smith Street Kent, WA 98939 Map:  https://goo.gl/maps/BFJgr

*************press release*************

Seattle Farmers Market Association FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT Judy Kirkhuff Market Master sfmamarketmaster@gmail.com

Huge Fee Increase for 2015 Farmers Markets and Vendors Proposed by Public Health - Seattle & King County 

Fee Increases As Much As 300% Over 2014

November 12, 2014 Seattle, WA

Department of Environmental Health Services at Public Health – Seattle & King County submitted a proposal to the King County Board of Health in late September to increase farmers market permit fees for 2015, without adequate justification.  Called Temporary Recurring Event permits, these permits are required of every farmers market and hundreds of farmers and food vendors in King County.

This proposal stunned farmers market organizers who, like farmers, have been working in partnership with Public Health over the last several years to dramatically reduce violations at farmers markets, as well as Dept. staff time necessary at markets. Under the Public Health proposal, in 2015, the permit fee increase for each farmers market in King County will increase by 132%, and amounts to a more than ten-fold increase in the cost of fees paid by farmers markets just 3 years ago. Farmers and farmers markets alike are struggling to keep up with the escalating costs of doing business in King County.

King County is the economic engine of Washington State. It has the highest concentration of farmers markets of any Washington county, with about $20 million in farmers market sales in the county in 2013. Hundreds of small farms and family businesses from around the state bring their fresh, healthy, artisanal foods to markets around King County. All are required to make separate applications and pay separate permits for each market at which they sell.  (King County does not issue county-wide permits.) These market vendors will see the cost of their 2015 health permits increase by as much as 300% over 2011 rates. Local farmers selling meats, poultry, eggs, dairy, cheese, fish and shellfish face similar dramatic increases.   Requiring farmers to pay for a separate health permit for the same activity at each individual farmers market is redundant, inefficient, and overly burdensome.

Seattle Farmers Market Association, which organizes three markets in Seattle’s Ballard, Madrona and Wallingford districts, is very concerned that many small farms and food processors will stop participating in King County farmers markets. The result will be the loss of availability of quality foods, poultry and eggs at many smaller markets, and could lead to the closure of some farmers markets in the county.

There has never been a documented food-borne illness outbreak from a farmers market in King County, despite the significant growth of farmers markets in the county in recent years. And with increased inspection enforcement in 2012 and 2013, the Health Department’s own report to the Board of Health, dated March 2014, details the significant decrease in violations found at farmers markets.  The report credits:

  • Close working relationships and coordinated effort with market staff
  • Educational emphasis on handwashing, cold holding, and washing produce samples
  • Increased enforcement

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It is difficult to understand the justification for this proposal.  This is in direct contrast to the County’s policy to support farmers markets as a critical part of King County Food Policy.  It is also contrary to other programs funded by Public Health that focus on increasing use of farmers markets by low-income families to improve their diets.

The Board of Health has not posted a date when the vote will be held on this proposal. Public testimony will be accepted until December 10, 2014. There is still time for concerned farmers market shoppers and supporters of local farms to contact King County Board of Health to urge them to reject the proposed fee increases for farmers markets and food and farm vendors.

Please submit comments to King County Board of Health at: Maria.Wood@kingcounty.gov. Comments can be made to Public Health online at  www.kingcounty.gov/healthservices/health/ehs/fees/proposal.aspx. Join at us at one of three public hearings on Nov. 13th & 19th to express your concerns (go to ballardfarmersmarket.wordpress.com for more details).

For more information, contact the SFMA Market Master, Judy Kirkhuff,  at sfmamarketmaster@gmail.com.

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