§19-35-1. Legislative findings and purpose.

(a) The Legislature hereby makes the following findings:

(1) Farmers markets are critical incubators for small farm and food businesses because they offer an inexpensive, accessible, entry-level market for reaching consumers directly, though research has shown that the average vendor makes only a nominal dollar amount in sales on any given market day;

(2) The number of farmers markets and the variety of products sold at farmers markets has increased significantly in the past 10 years, adding millions of dollars to the state’s economy;

(3) Encouraging locally grown and raised food is important to the health and welfare of the citizens of West Virginia;

(4) Permit fees and requirements for farmers market vendors can vary widely from county to county and from one regulatory official to the other. Current food permit categories are not designed for farmers markets and their vendors, but rather for restaurants, grocery stores, or concessioners; and

(5) Food permits required for farmers market vendors are currently not recognized across county lines.

(b) It is the purpose of this article:

(1) To reduce barriers on participants producing, preparing, and selling certain foods at farmers markets and elsewhere within West Virginia;

(2) To place regulation of farmers markets, vendors, and local food producers primarily within the Department of Agriculture; and

(3) To encourage the growth of the local food industry in West Virginia.