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Maryland opens door to farm food sales

February 15, 2005

BALTIMORE - Maryland farmers can be licensed to process certain foods on their farm, Gov. Robert Ehrlich said..

"This provides another business opportunity for our Maryland farmers," Ehrlich said. This also expands the availability "of fresh, locally-raised and processed foods for consumers," he said.

Working in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture, the University of Maryland and local agricultural organizations, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said it has revised regulations that govern food processing.

To familiarize farmers with the new on-farm processing regulations, on-farm processing licensing courses will be held around the state in March, said Health Secretary S. Anthony McCann.

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"Adherence to the regulations will ensure that Maryland's very high food safety standards will be maintained," McCann said.

Before a license is approved, the applicant must complete one of the scheduled licensing courses to be held in Frederick, Howard, Charles, and Queen Anne's counties. Issues such as sanitation, cross-contamination and food security will be covered.

In Western Maryland, the course will be held on March 11 in Frederick County. The class will run from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Winchester Hall. Registration is required by March 4.

After completing the course, participants may apply for a license with DHMH. There is a licensing fee, and each farmer "must also allow DHMH inspections at reasonable times of all areas and equipment used for processing," according to a press release.

"The farming community really benefits from this," said Agriculture Secretary Lewis R. Riley. "Farmers now have more options of what they can sell and where they can sell it."

If a license is approved, the farmer is allowed to process in a domestic kitchen on the individual's farm a limited selection of nonpotentially hazardous foods for commercial sale and distribution.

Examples of foods include baked cakes, muffins and cookies; fruit pies; canned acid foods; herbs in vinegar; honey and herb mixtures; and dried fruit and vegetables.

A list of allowable products is available at www.cha.state.md.us/ofpchs/. Farmers who sell only at farmers markets may continue to operate under the old regulations.

If a farm is used to raise animals commercially, the regulation also allows for limited packaging and sale of raw meat from those animals. There are similar provisions for fish farms with respect to the sale of raw finfish.

The course registration form and more information about the regulations, the licensing process and a more extensive list of allowable products are available on the Internet at www.cha.state.md.us/ofpchs/. Or, contact the DHMH Division of Food Control at 1-410-767-8400. A complete text of the regulations is available at www.ruralforvm.state.md.us/News/dhmhregs.html.

The courses are being offered with the support of agricultural marketing professionals in Carroll, Cecil, Frederick, Garrett, Harford, Howard, Montgomery, and St. Mary's counties; the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission; Rural Maryland Council; Future Harvest and the Chesapeake Community College.

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