Lt. Governor Zuckerman Wants New Guidance to Reopen Farmers Markets
The Office of the Lt. Governor has received a lot of contact from farmers and those who rely on local food who are concerned that farmers markets are not permitted to operate under current guidance. Today, Lt. Governor Zuckerman sent a letter to Anson Tebbetts, Secretary of Agriculture, asking for guidance that allows farmers markets to operate with proper protective protocols.
April 13, 2020
I am writing to let you know how disappointed I am that farmers markets are not permitted to operate under the latest Ag Department COVID-19 guidance. While I understand the need for spatial distancing to protect public health, I believe that the open air and spread out nature of a farmers market is far safer than the confines of grocery stores (for both consumers and staff). Also, farmers markets which provide basic food needs are at least as essential as liquor stores and convenience stores that are being allowed to remain open. It is my understanding that at least 19 states have deemed farmers markets as essential services.
Proper protocols can protect both farmers and consumers. I am aware that NOFA and the famers markets have put forth detailed proposals to accomplish this.
Farmers are already putting crops in the ground. Decisions on how much to plant are determined by the potential markets that farmers will have access to. Farmers need clear guidance, or they will not have the proper quantities of food planted.
The agency implies the possibility that the guidance will change. I encourage you to move quickly to a guidance that allows farmers markets to operate with proper protective protocols and to allow our small rural businesses to survive as well as provide food for their neighbors.
I appreciate all the work you and the agency staff are doing amidst this unprecedented situation. I know this is a particularly difficult time for agriculture. I hope that as we move forward, we can also discuss where this situation has revealed weaknesses in the current models/systems and ways that we can work to build a healthier and more resilient Ag economy for the future.
Lt. Governor David Zuckerman