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Maryland publishes proposed rules regulating the advertising of what constitutes 'local' food

December 29, 2010

ANNAPOLIS — Proposed rules regulating the advertising of "local" foods are published in the Maryland Register for public comment, Agriculture Secretary Buddy Hance said.

The regulations were drafted by MDA as part of a law signed by Gov. Martin O'Malley earlier this year that seeks to bring clarity to consumers as to what constitutes local.

"With the increased interest in buying local and the current lack of agreement on defining local, we feel it is paramount that consumers have the information they need to make informed decisions about their food purchases," Hance said. "If advertising a food product as 'local,' the proposed regulations will require businesses to disclose the origin of their product and consumers can make their own determination if a food advertised as 'local' meets their standard."

The law authorizes the secretary to regulate the use of the terms "local" or "locally grown" when used to advertise agricultural and seafood products. It aims to support Maryland farmers and provide transparency to consumers interested in purchasing local foods by informing Marylanders about their local foods purchases.

In recent years, interest in locally produced foods has surged, leading to the rapid growth of farmers markets, and the appearance of Maryland products in restaurants and grocery stores.

However, there has been little agreement as to the definition of "local" foods. A task force of farmers, retail representatives, consumer advocates, and other interested stakeholders provided input for the proposal.

The 2010 Policy Choices Survey by the University of Baltimore Schaefer Center for Public Policy found that 78 percent of Marylanders are more likely to buy produce that is identified as having been grown by a Maryland farmer.

For more information, go to www.dsd.state.md.us/MDRegister/mdregister.aspx for a link to the Register. Comments can be sent to Mark Powell, chief of marketing, Maryland Department of Agriculture, 50 Harry S. Truman Parkway, Annapolis, MD 21401, or call 410-841-5775 or e-mail PowellMS@mda.state.md.us, or fax to 410-841-5957. Comments will be accepted through Jan. 18. A public hearing has not been scheduled.

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