September 7, 2006
By: Joseph Holstead, Associate Analyst
You asked (1) how Danbury may be able to recruit enough farmers to provide products at its Farmers' Market considering most Connecticut farmers are apparently either uninterested or unavailable to participate and (2) if New York farmers may participate in the Danbury market.
It is not clear what Danbury can do to increase the number of farmers participating in it farmers' market beyond current recruiting efforts. New York and other out-of-state farmers cannot participate in Connecticut-Grown or Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) farmers' markets that are authorized through the state Agriculture Department. Danbury's market is a WIC authorized farmers' market through the department. However, any municipality could have out-of-state farmers at a farmers' market that was not involved in these programs.
Both the Agriculture Department and the local office in Danbury that runs the market have attempted to recruit more farmers (and continue to do so) through informational mailings and outreach. Danbury's goal is to find additional Connecticut farmers as soon as possible to accommodate the majority of people purchasing produce at the market who appear to use WIC vouchers, according to Kay Schreiber, manager at City-Center Danbury, which oversees the market locally. At this time, the market only has one farmer (a Connecticut one) participating (last year, it had two, but one of the participating farmers passed away).
NEW YORK FARMERS AND DEPARTMENT AUTHORIZED FARMERS' MARKETS
The only additional farmers who have shown interest in Danbury's market based on recruiting efforts are from New York, according to Schreiber. Agriculture Department regulations do not permit WIC vouchers to go to out-of-state farmers. Thus, the need for Connecticut farmers is paramount, as (1) WIC voucher holders need enough fresh produce to help meet nutritional needs (see more on WIC below) and (2) New York farmers would be at a competitive disadvantage not being able to accept WIC vouchers, if an alternate market (i.e., not part of the WIC program) were established and the WIC market remained. (Farmers' markets in nearby towns may contribute to the lack of participation in Danbury's market, Schreiber noted.)
By law, an "authorized farmers' market" is one that operates at a site authorized by the Agriculture Department to exchange WIC vouchers for Connecticut-grown fresh produce. "Connecticut-grown" means produce and other farm products that have a traceable origin in Connecticut (CGS § 22-6g). Thus, the produce and products at such markets (like Danbury's) must be grown in Connecticut, making out-of-state farmers ineligible.
Additionally, PA 06-52 also established requirements for Connecticut-grown “certified farmers' markets,” which the act defines as one the agriculture commissioner authorizes to operate (but not necessarily participate in the WIC program).
Under the act, for both the “certified” and WIC programs, “farmers' market” means a cooperative or nonprofit enterprise or association that consistently occupies the same site throughout the season and operates principally as a common marketplace for a group of farmers, at least two of whom are selling Connecticut-grown fresh produce, to sell Connecticut-grown (again, with traceable origin in Connecticut) farm products directly to consumers. The farm products sold must have been produced by the participating farmers with the sole purpose of generating a portion of household income.
BACKGROUND ON THE WIC PROGRAM AND ITS FARMERS' MARKET NUTRITION PROGRAM COMPONENT
WIC is a federal program run by the U. S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). It is administered in Connecticut by the state Department of Public Health's Bureau of Community Health through health clinics. The program, available in all 50 states, provides vouchers for low-income pregnant women, new mothers, and children under age five to get specific high-nutrition foods like, milk, cereal, or meat. WIC vouchers can also be used at authorized farmers' markets through the WIC Farmers' Market Nutrition Program (FMNP). Between July and October, WIC clients receive coupons to buy fruits and vegetables at local authorized farmers markets. In Connecticut, the FMNP is administered by the agriculture department. More information on the Farmers' Market Nutrition Program is attached or see the FNS WIC webpage.
To be eligible for WIC vouchers, applicants' income must be below 185% of the federal poverty level. A health provider must also certify that the applicant is at nutritional risk, which can mean inadequate diet or medical risks such as anemia, underweight, or a history of pregnancy complications. Participants in the Food Stamp Program, Temporary Family Assistance (TFA), or Medicaid are considered automatically eligible to meet the income requirements.
Unlike Food Stamps, the program is not an entitlement and availability depends on how much money Congress appropriates for it. Federal funds support 100% of the program's food costs and 70% of the administrative costs. States match the federal administrative funds by contributing at least 30% of the total administrative program. For additional details, see the attached WIC fact sheet, or visit the visit the WIC fact sheet webpage.