Thursday, March 18, 2010

HB 1864--Exemption for Farmers' Markets

The Missouri House Bill (HB) 1864 authorizes a state and local sales tax and use exemption for specified farm products sold at a farmers' market. That's good news if you are a produce vendor at the De Soto Farmers' Market.

The bill is currently working its way through the Agri-Business House Committee, and a hearing was held on March 2nd in Jefferson City. Wendy Miller and her son Rich went to Jeff. City to testify, and we are very proud of their efforts. Her and her family are regular vendors at the market, and we would like to share her testimony with you.

Good morning.

As a Farmers Market vendor, and customer, I would like to thank you all for supporting Farmers Markets here in Missouri. Without them, it would be hard to find local food that is fresh, and grown without the chemical mentality that is needed to grow the large quantities of food produced here in America.

Sir Albert Howard, stated in his 1940 classic, An Agricultural Testament: “Artificial manures lead inevitably to artificial nutrition, artificial food, artificial animals, and finally to artificial men and women.” Here in 2010, we live in a country that has
chosen to follow this path, and as a result, we are consuming animal products and produce, that without the chemical additives used in processing, no longer have the nutritional qualities necessary to help us maintain our health.

Because of your legislation, as more Farmers Markets open across the state, consumers will have the opportunity to choose whether they want food that has been sprayed with chemicals to increase production, treated with chemicals to increase shelf life, inoculated with chemicals so that large numbers can be raised in confinement settings, or whether they want food that has been grown locally by people they can see face-to-face; people from their community, farmers and friends who bring fresh food to the Farmers Markets, food that often has a story behind
its production, food that is usually raised with a minimum amount of chemicals and
food that is produced by people who welcome their customers to visit the place where their produce and animals are raised. Your support of these markets has
given consumers a choice. As a consumer, I want to thank you for this.

As a market vendor, I have come today as a representative for the many vendors, asking for your support in another area, that of making market vendors exempt from state and local sales and use taxes on the products that they sell at the Farmers Market. These taxes presently act as a road block for many would-be producers considering getting involved with the Farmers Market movement. They also present problems for both the present producers and consumers.

Producers must carry large amounts of coins to make change; keep records of sales on items that vary in tax status, while selling in an open air setting; and try to maintain accurate records while selling items that don’t always fit into specific parameters for a sales description, all of which contribute to the challenges that face sellers.

Customers also often complain when they are asked to pay different amounts of tax on separate items. (In our area, every non-food item is taxed at 7.85% and every food item is taxed at 4.85%). These customers would much rather pay $1.50 for a pound of tomatoes than $1.31. If I am selling my tomatoes for $1.25 a pound and with tax, at $1.31, as a seller then, do I charge the $1.50, but record my tax on the $1.25 sale with the 6 cents tax, and throw out the other 19 cents, or do I charge my customer the $1.31 and frustrate him as he looks for the three dimes and a penny, or myself, as I try to come up with the uneven amount of change needed?

I know this probably sounds petty, but when one is outdoors dealing with whatever
elements the weather presents, selling out of a car or truck, and trying to move customers through the stand, small things like figuring percents of purchases and making change can become large.

These same things can overwhelm those other individuals who might consider
getting involved once-in-a-while, in order to sell extra produce from their garden, but are scared off by the thought of getting a tax number and keeping records. Small things can keep folks from getting involved and from allowing great things to happen.

America is getting a wake up call as people are becoming aware of what has happened to the food industry. Citizens need to know that they can make wise food choices. Farmers Markets are one of the venues available to help educate consumers. People can establish relationships within their communities, and begin to get involved with understanding where their food is coming from, and just exactly what is in it, or on it. I would like to encourage you to do everything you can to keep the market movement gaining in popularity with both producers and consumers. It is going to take both to make these markets a success in changing the way people look at food, and it is going to take both to give people the freedom of choice they deserve. America’s health depends on it!

We think Wendy did a great job of testifying and are very proud. She described everything that is good about our market, including the atmosphere that it creates.

The bill is sponsored by Marilyn Ruestman, a Representative from the southwest part of Missouri. There are also 13 co-sponsors for the bill, one of which is our very own Belinda Harris. If you would like to find out more about HB 1864, please check out

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