In 1976, on Governor Jerry Brown’s recommendation, the Direct Marketing Code was developed and put into state regulations by Rose Bird, California’s agriculture director. In the intervening 35 years, direct marketing of agricultural products has grown rapidly in California. There are now almost 800 farmers’ markets, over 300 CSAs, and an uncounted number of farm stands where consumers can buy directly from farmers.
The original idea of a direct marketing exemption was to free such direct sales from requirements that produce be in standard packs and to allow farmers going to farmers’ markets to avoid inspection points that existed at that time. Direct market sales are not exempt from other state laws, such as quality standards, that cover particular crops or groups of crops.
As of May 2012, the laws specific to direct marketing are as follows: California Direct Marketing Regulations
CDFA Task Force on Direct Marketing
CDFA formed a task force in 2011 to reconsider some of the rules. Among the issues to be considered are: fraud in farmers’ markets and lack of enforcement resources; resale rules created by AB 2168; roadside sales without permits; and CSAs.
One might note that in the current direct marketing rules that there is no mention of Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs). This is because they did not exist back in the 1970s when the rules were first created. At present, there are no statewide rules specific to CSAs, and their regulation is at the discretion of County Environmental Health Officers. As the numbers and size of CSAs have grown, these Health Officers have become increasingly concerned about food safety issues and the kinds of food products being delivered. This has led to very uneven policies across the counties. In fact, one County Environmental Health Officer shut down a multi-farm CSA, saying it was really a food retailer without the proper permits.
This task force has continued to meet, and the last summary document of proposals was issued on March 23, 2012: Direct Marketing Requirements and Design, v. 0.2
There have been several meetings since this version was created, and the task force continues to refine its proposals. We will attempt to post here the most current information as it becomes available.