Connecticut agriculture officials are stepping up enforcement procedures to ensure that all fruits and vegetables bearing the Connecticut Grown label actually were grown in the state.
“It is essential that consumers who purchase agricultural products labeled ‘Connecticut Grown’ be confident those products were, in fact, grown and produced here in Connecticut,” Steven Reviczky, Connecticut’s commissioner of agriculture, said in a news release.
The state-overseen Connecticut Grown program, established in 1986, validates homegrown items with a green and blue Connecticut Grown logo.
Reviczky called it critical that all products marked “local” and/or “native” are what sellers claim them to be.
“Connecticut laws are very clear about the definition of these terms with respect to farm products,” Revickzky said.
Indeed, for the 2013 growing season, state agriculture agents started to conduct unannounced inspections at farmers’ markets and other sales venues. The state department of agriculture also looked into complaints alleging inappropriate marketing of local farm products.
Connecticut General Statutes Section 22-38 states that “Any person, firm, partnership or corporation advertising farm products as ‘native,’ ‘native grown,’ ‘local,’ ‘locally grown’, or ‘Connecticut grown’ shall be required to furnish written proof within 10 days of the sale of such products that such products were grown or produced in Connecticut or within a 10-mile radius of the point of sale, as applicable, if requested to do so by the commissioner of agriculture or said commissioner’s designee.”
A fine of up to $25 can be assessed with each violation, and the state departments of Agriculture and Consumer Protection can tack on additional penalties, said Bruce Sherman, director of the Bureau of Regulation and Inspection with the department of agriculture.
Or, at least, they will be assessed moving forward, Sherman said.
“We started slowly, letting people know about the rules but didn’t issue fines this year,” he said.
Officials won’t be so lenient in 2014, Sherman said.
“This year, it was more warnings because this was the first year we went out and did this stuff,” he said.
The Bureau of Marketing administers the Connecticut Grown program, but enforcement of the rules fell to Sherman’s department, Sherman said.
“The marketing department wasn’t enforcing the rules, and we felt it was better that our bureau did it, so there wasn’t a conflict with the people who are promoting,” he said.