By Gregory B. Hladky
1:37 PM EDT, May 28, 2013
For the first time, state inspectors will be making unannounced visits this summer to farmers' markets and farm stands looking for "Connecticut Grown" veggies and products that aren't really "Connecticut Grown."
The Advocate newspapers reported back in March that the state Department of Agriculture didn't feel it had the staff or authority to investigate a growing number of allegations that the Connecticut Grown label was being misused. But things have apparently changed.
"It is essential that consumers who purchase agricultural products labeled 'Connecticut Grown' be confident those products were, in fact, grown and produced here in Connecticut," state Agriculture Commissioner Steven Reviczky said Tuesday. "It is also critical that products marked 'local' and/or 'native' are what their sellers claim them to be."
State officials have been getting repeated complaints from some Connecticut farmers that out-of-state stuff is being brought in and sold here as locally grown.Those irate farmers argue that unscrupulous dudes are really ripping off people who want to buy their veggies and meat locally.
"No one goes around right now checking on the use of the Connecticut Grown label," Mark Zotti, one of two state agriculture officials responsible for monitoring and promoting farmers' markets, told the Advocate back in March.
Now, Reviczky insists there will be checks made.
"While we do not believe misuse of the Connecticut Grown lable is widespread, we recognize that trust is quickly damaged in the rare instances it does occur," the commissioner said in a prepared statement.
Here's the commissioner's press release:
(HARTFORD, CONN.) Today Connecticut Agriculture Commissioner Steven K. Reviczky announced that the Connecticut Department of Agriculture has ramped up inspection and enforcement concerning the use of the Connecticut Grown slogan, logo, and label.
“It is essential that consumers who purchase agricultural products labeled ‘Connecticut Grown’ be confident those products were, in fact, grown and produced here in Connecticut,” said Commissioner Reviczky. “It is also critical that products marked ‘local,’ and/or ‘native’ are what their sellers claim them to be. Connecticut laws are very clear about the definition of these terms with respect to farm products.”
According to an announcement in the May 29, 2013, issue of the agency’s Connecticut Weekly Agri-cultural Report, the Department of Agriculture will be conducting unannounced inspections at farmers’ markets and other sales venues this summer. It will also investigate complaints alleging inappropriate marketing of local farm products.
Connecticut General Statutes Section 22-38 states that “Any person, firm, partnership or corporation advertising farm products as ‘Native,’ ‘Native-Grown,’ ‘Local,’ ‘Locally-Grown’, or ‘Connecticut-Grown’ shall be required to furnish written proof within ten days of the sale of such products that such products were grown or produced in Connecticut or within a ten-mile radius of the point of sale, as applicable, if requested to do so by the Commissioner of Agriculture or said commissioner’s de-signee.”
The law establishes a fine of not more than $25 for each product label in violation, and the state de-partments of Agriculture and Consumer Protection have authority to impose additional penalties. The Connecticut Weekly Agricultural Report announcement cites a 2005 case in which a company paid the state $70,075 for falsely using the Connecticut Grown logo on its egg cartons and deceptive-ly using the word “farm” in its trade name.
“While we do not believe misuse of the Connecticut Grown label is widespread, we recognize that trust is quickly damaged in the rare instances it does occur. Strict protection of the Connecticut Grown brand protects not only consumers seeking out local foods and other agricultural products, but also the thousands of honest farm families in Connecticut working long, hard hours each day to pro-duce those items.”
Anyone with information about what they believe to be misuse of the Connecticut Grown label can file a complaint with the Department of Agriculture by calling 860-713-2508.
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