A new California law cracks down on fraud at the farmers market.
After NBC Los Angeles’ investigative unit caught farmers buying produce wholesale and passing it off as their own, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that would hire more inspectors to catch fake farmers.
“We can notice by the way the products stand out, if it all looks exactly the same,” explained J.R. Organics Farmer Joe Rodriguez Jr.
NBC 4 found vendors also made false claims their produce was pesticide-free when in reality, the fruits tested with high levels of pesticide.
The new law requires vendors to pay $2 to the state each time they participate at farmers markets, nearly quadruple the old rate of $.60. The money will go toward hiring more inspectors at farmers markets.
“A little more enforcement will be good because then it puts all the farmers on the right track and on the right base with everybody else,” Rodriguez said.
“I think it’s completely fair to hold farmers accountable,” said customer Scarlet Garcia.
However, not everyone agrees with added government regulation.
“San Diego County already does an excellent job of making sure San Diego farmers grow everything they say the grow,” said Hillcrest Farmers Market co-founder Mark Larson. “They do inspect farms regularly, and the farmers also police themselves. If they know of anybody that’s selling what they don’t grow, they report it.”
Other farmers worry about the increased fee and passing the cost onto consumers.
“That can be over $250 a year of additional cost, so it’s just going to drive up the cost of farmers market produce for customers, and it’s an additional regulatory burden on the farmers,” Larson said.
The new law goes into effect Jan. 1.