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CHARLESTON - On July 1, the West Virginia Department of Agriculture will begin the inspection of farmers markets and farmers market vendor permits.

The inspections are part of new rules and regulations authorized under Senate Bill 375, which passed during the 2018 session. Corresponding rules were approved earlier this year and went into effect June 2.

"The intent of the legislation was to expand markets for cottage foods, as well as have one agency handle the regulations. The hope was these changes would help grow small agri-businesses in our state," West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture Kent Leonhardt said in a news release.

SB 375 authorized potentially hazardous foods made in home kitchens to be sold at farmers markets. Previously, the sale of these foods was illegal unless made in a commercial kitchen. The legislation also transferred all authority to regulate these businesses to the WVDA. As part of the rules, all farmers markets must register with the WVDA and provide a list of potential vendors.

"We have worked with our partners to host 30 informational meetings around the state. Hundreds of stakeholders attended to ask questions. We hope people understand what they must do to come into compliance under the new law," WVDA Regulatory and Environmental Affairs Director Amie Minor said.

Producers who wish to sell canned acidified products, pickled products, fermented products, sauces, salsas or time-temperature controlled foods must obtain a permit and pass a home kitchen inspection. At farmers markets, they must display that permit, as well as follow proper health safety guidelines.

Vendors found in violation may be levied fines or face suspension of their permits, the release stated.

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